Teaching Out of Who You Are: Avoiding Pitfalls as You Build on Your Strengths


How can you teach like other teachers, the ones you look up to so much? Don’t even try, says Anthony. Instead, embrace the way you’re made while disciplining your own weaknesses.

Anthony contrasts sociable, energetic teachers with quiet, studious ones, and encourages each of us to consider how our strengths also predispose us to certain weaknesses—weaknesses that can hinder us from fulfilling our potential. Without trying to copy others, we can grow into more effective servants.

This video is an excerpt from Teachers’ Week 2019. For full-length recordings, visit Christian Learning Resource.

Understand your strengths and weakness. This I find so fascinating: None of you are exactly the same. Of course not; that’s probably good, isn’t it? We have teachers who are very expressive and very bubbly and outgoing and they come into the classroom with all the pitazz, I mean they just love life and love students, and those of us who are not exactly that way look with some jealousy on those teachers.

There’s other teachers who are more stoic, disciplined, and those who are on the outgoing side look with jealousy on those well-disciplined, well-mannered people who don’t get themselves in trouble nearly as often.

I think it’s worth some time: What are your strengths? What kind of teacher are you? Are you an academic teacher? Wow, why do they teach school? Because they love the books. They love learning, studying. And then they enjoy, of course, teaching and imparting that, but “The students are there, good, glad I have an audience, but boy, do I ever love to study, I’m fascinated with information.”

Other teachers are quite so on the other end, they’re relational: “I love children, I love being with children and you know what? Teach school! That’s where you can be with children and get paid. Sort of.”

There’s maybe also, fitting in there somewhere, the creative teacher or the stylistic teacher. They just love a place where they can have a theme. That’s sort of their thing: “Yes, teach the books, okay, whatever, and yes, children, but I just love my room. I love the decor, I love bulletin boards and posters and I love the creativeness.”

Guess what? You’re all good teachers. Don’t try to be somebody else. Have you ever tried it? Don’t try to be like another teacher. I didn’t say don’t learn! But don’t try to emulate them and almost reinvent who you are. That’s no fun. You won’t enjoy it very long and you won’t do well and you won’t even be like that other person.

Be what God has created you to be, but think of the challenges that go along with your particular set of gifts. There is a range, folks, somewhere, that works and doesn’t work as a teacher. Maybe “Bring in the edges,” would be one way of thinking about it. The person who is very—a sanguine, I believe they’re called, and they are high energy and like to talk a lot and they’re full of fun: We love those people of course! But those of us who are that way or a little more undisciplined. If it wouldn’t be for last minutes we’d be in big trouble. We forget a lot of things and we make a lot of last-minute photocopies and the art projects are planned up to the last minute. There’s some of you out there. I can see it.

Well, don’t say, “That’s who I am. That’s just how I am. I just hate planning ahead. I hate schedules and writing down lists of things. That just gets me all befuddled and I just—It’s okay. It works.” Well, you know what? It works, but it could work better maybe.

Pull in the edges. Just insist on becoming more disciplined if that’s where you are. And by the way, I tend to be on that edge of things. My wife has helped me. I have better lists than I used to, check things off, I write more things down and use lots of sticky note. It helps, but I’ve had to work hard at bringing that edge in of “Just a little more, I’ll get by somehow.”

If you’re the rather stoic teacher, have a hard time building relationships—and I’ve worked with teachers like this: very academic, very disciplined, expect the same out of their students, studied well, the outlines are always done well, the syllabus is just so—Well, there’s challenges with that as well, right? Winning the heart of a student. You would rather eat at your desk and page through your notes than eat with your students. Go eat with your students.

“Well, I don’t know if they really want me to.” Guess what, they probably do. Get that out of your heads: that your students don’t like you anyhow. Well, what can you do about that? Just learn to ask questions of your students. Just try to become comfortable around them when they go out and play volleyball or whatever they’re playing—younger students, whatever they all play—just go out and be among them. Just be with them, be accessible and you’ll find that that can grow. You can learn to enjoy your students better.

Please don’t just say, “Well, that’s who I am. I just—I’m half scared of children. They intimidate me.” Well, students intimidate me as well. They can be amazingly young students who can be intimidating. Aren’t you glad they don’t know that? How intimidating they really can be? I don’t think they know that.

Bring the edges in. Say, “Now, wait a minute. I don’t—This isn’t going to be healthy, I’m going to need to learn to just relax, be among my students.” Ask good questions and try to develop the ability to connect with your students. It does really matter.

The creative teacher: kind of the same thing. Don’t become obsessed with all of those things. They’re great things to do. They’re probably your energy: doing those things. But you need some energy to study. You need some energy to teach your classes well.

You’re not becoming a different person, but you’re working out of who you are to try to expand where you can expand and bring in the edges. God bless you as you find your role as a teacher.

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