I had a dream last night that Justin Bieber visited my class. And offered the most powerful lesson any future teacher could hear.
I can see the headlines now: "Justin Bieber enrolls at Merrimack College!"; "Will Justin Teach?"; "Bieber stands up for quality education: 'As Long as You Teach Me.'"
So, to be clear, it was only just a dream (thanks Nelly!). But it made a really powerful point that I always try to convey to my future teacher: that you will never succeed as a teacher until you find your own voice, your own passion, your own stance.
So here's the dream: I was teaching my students -- all future teachers -- and remembered that Justin was somewhere in the building visiting classes. I thus decided on an impromptu lesson and asked one of the students, who we all knew was also an aspiring musician, to imitate one of Justin's songs. After just a few moments I stopped her and asked the class if we could tell whether it was Justin singing or her. We all agreed that it was her. And then Justin walked in. I asked him to sing a few bars of the same song, and it was obvious that this was him singing his song. So I asked him the secret to his "stage act" of how he could have such an external stage presence and stay "true" to his internal self. And he said that it was all about figuring out how to align, as closely as possible, his stage presence to his personal self.
(My dream was not the place to get all academic, but I might take Erving Goffman's classic The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life as an excellent starting point for understanding this connection. Goffman's "dramaturgical analysis" used the metaphor of a "front stage" and "back stage," and the larger sociological literature offers a powerful theory for understanding the relationship between our own "agency" as individuals with free will who are nevertheless constrained within multiple and overlapping contexts and cultures -- the "structures" or different "plays" -- that we are all actors within.)
And so my dream ended with me walking around the room reiterating Justin's key point: that none of them could ever become good teachers -- no matter how much they knew their content, no matter how much they cared about kids, no matter how many degrees they got or classes they took -- until and unless they figured out who they were and what they cared about. Only then could they teach because only then would they have made that classroom, that content, that "song," their own.
Thanks Justin. And, hey, never say never about becoming a teacher.