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The Egotistical Teacher

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There is an art to teaching well. 

Despite the multitude of books and information out there about teaching well, there is a trait, I believe, that is integral in any good teacher. If you don’t have it, no book will be able to help. 

The teacher who does a good job teaching doesn’t just know her content, but is charismatic and personable as well. Just like an actor must connect with her audience, or a sales person must connect with her client, a teacher must connect with her students. 

But being charismatic and personable isn’t enough. 

To do this the teacher must be a bit of an egomaniac. Yes, that wasn’t a typo or mistake. 

The teacher must be an egomaniac. 

As a teacher, I have to be confident in my skin, willing to take on any comment or statement made in my presence, and still carry myself with an air of one unaffected by such comments. I have to know my worth and believe in my self-importance.  And for it to come across, I have to believe I’m integral to the growth and success of my students.  

It’s almost like acting. The good actor must believe that the fate of the show rests in their own hands- no matter how small the role may be. 

To be egoistical in the teaching profession, a teacher must always be ON. She must be charming, proud, and happy and, very importantly, look the part. She must be dressed to perfection every single day. The clothing a teacher wears is often more telling of the teacher’s person and confidence than the words she speaks. She must radiate this confidence in every aspect of her being: speech, looks, and interactions. 

I can’t stress enough how important image is. Students hold on to their prejudices much longer than anyone else I’ve met. Whenever they complain about a teacher, they start by expressing how annoying the teacher sounds (yes, I know we can’t “help” how we talk or what our voice sounds like), how ugly the teacher looks/dresses, and then finally say something about the actual subject being taught or way the class is run. In that exact order. 

Dressing professionally for work is a no brainier. And yet it feels that many teachers have missed the memo. Students aren’t going to give two shits about a teacher unless they respect her. And take her seriously. They have to look up to her. No one looks up to a person who looks like they’ve given up on themselves. 

Students can say mean things. Just like an audience can throw rotten tomatoes at an actor on stage (do they still do that?); students can be quite effective in making themselves heard via their back handed comments and criticism. This is where being egotistical is key in teaching. Many teachers may engage their students upon hearing these comments- validating the students’ power over the teacher and instilling their power, within the classroom, to derail the lesson or activity. However, by using egotism, a teacher can do away with much of these issues. She should not bat her gorgeous lashes at the comments and should instead appear above them. The comments are being made by incomplete human beings (we’re all in some stage of incompleteness theoughout out lives) and so they should not be given a second moment’s thought. 

Comments to “ignore” are ones about showing favoritism, anger towards the system, questioning the importance of education, commenting about the workload, grumbling about the subject, hating on the skill being taught, etc. 

I’m definitely not the teacher who thinks she’s better than her students, but I do believe I’m better than most other teachers. And this belief provides me with the power I need to keep a (mostly) smoothly running classroom. My students see me radiating my love and confidence for my profession and my love and confidence in them that they have no choice but to perform as expected within the four walls of my classroom. 

I’ve also noticed that if I “turn the other cheek” on the impossible-to-please students (or administration), my other (faithful) students often put them in their place by defending what I do and reasoning with them.  This has happened to me more times than I can count. 

Why take what they say to heart? They’re just saying it to get under our skin. Often, if I feel I need to address an issue with a student- such as an unacceptable comment or action- then I pull them aside later or ask them to talk to me in the hallway. However, I’ve had to do so less and less as students realize that they can’t get under my skin. I’m the adult. They’re the teen. I need to be more mature and more thick skinned, which means my backhanded comments and witty responses stay intact in my mind as I smile sweetly at the offender. 

Case and point: a good teacher must have an ego. 

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