Posted in Education, Teaching

My Teaching Mask: Fake ‘Till You Make It

In elementary school I was constantly harassed and made fun of because I was different.  I was born with a cleft pallette and so my voice was higher than the norm.  Kids are cruel.  However, this trauma made me who I am today.  I became a teacher to try and bring about change in this circle of cruelty.

As part of the faculty orientation at my school, yesterday we watched the film The Mask You Live In.  Wow!  It is a powerful piece of cinema.  It really made me realize how important and crucial our job is as educators at an all-boys school.  We need to vanquish this culture of hyper-masculinity.  What it means to be a boy and a man has changed.  It’s not about holding in your emotions and being super strong all the time.  It’s aout being honest, kind, and compassionate.  

I found it very interesting because I was watching the movie through two different lenses.  First, I’m a father and so I was thinking about how I raise my son.  At the same time, I am also an educator and so I was thinking about the modelling I do for my students.  Now, being an outlier and anti-masculine, I find it very easy to be an individual and show my emotions.  I’m loud and boisterous and go out of my way to be who I am.  I model this for my son daily.  What I find most intriguing is that despite having me as one of his role models, my son is the polar oppiste of me.  He is the picture of masculinity.  He plays sports, he hides his emotions, and he tries to be strong all the time.  He wears a mask to hide his true self.  My son is funny and despite his large stature, is really just a big fluffy teddy bear, albeit a strong one.  However, he rarely shows this side of himself.  He keeps it hidden from the world.  Why?  Because he feels as though that’s what society wants him to do.  The media shoves images of strong, silent men down his throat on a regular basis.  So, it’s not hard to see why he has adopted this facade.  I’m hopeful though that as he grows and develops into the great and kind man he truly is, he will realize that it’s okay to be emotional and funny.

Now, to be completely honest, even though I try to be my true self all the time, there are many moments when I hide behind my mask of “Fake it ‘Till you Make it.”  If I’m having a bad day, my students will generally not know.  I put on a smile and go about my day as though it is the best day of my life.  Sure, a positive outlook is a great way to live life, but is it the best way to model how to show one’s emotions to boys?  After watching the video yesterday, I believe that it’s not always the best way to go about my day for the boys.  For me, it helps me focus on the good in my life.  I don’t think about the negative pieces of my daily puzzle because I’m constantly trying to move past them and see the light in the world.  I walk a fine line because of this.  I don’t want to lie to the boys, but I also don’t want them to think that being negative is a good way to live one’s life.  Being cognizant of this as I progress through this upcoming academic year will be important for me as I want to try and shed all of my masks, except for the one I wear on Halloween.  I love dressing up for my most favorite of holidays.  It’s super fun.  In fact, I already have my costume chosen for this October: Winnie the Pooh.

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Author:

I teach sixth grade at Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, NH. I'm currently ensconced in my fourteenth year at this small, independent boys' school. I love engaging students in relevant and hands-on learning. I was nominated for the NH Teacher of the Year Award in 2016 by a parent. While I love education and guiding students, my first passion is my family. I have a wonderful son, Jeffrey, and a beautiful and intelligent wife, Kim. I couldn't be happier. Every day is the best day of my life.

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