Looks good on you, Miss

25th July 2003 at 01:00
It can be hard changing from student to teacher

Debbie Parker Kinch's Talkback article about her struggle with and acceptance of her identity as a teacher struck a chord with me (Friday magazine, March 28) .

As a young (secondary) student teacher, mostly teaching sixth form, I've tried to resist buying what my friends refer to as teacher clothes - the grown-up suits and tops and sensible shoes that feel more like a uniform than something I would choose to wear. I have tried to maintain a sense of who I am, the outward expression of which is the clothes I wear. But that has been shaken. I've never had to think about my identity before. I've always just been me. But suddenly I am a teacher.

Part of me says I'm just a "beginning teacher". Yet the increasingly dominant voice is shouting, "No, you are a teacher". The message from school is mixed. We are given the responsibilities of a real teacher, but ultimately we are there for a few weeks, absorbing how things are done and developing our skills, still students. Then it is back to university for a few weeks, where I am clear who I am - a student. I can do that, it's easy.

Now I have a job in September, I'm finding the second voice harder to ignore. I love teaching, so why does my self-identity feel so shaken?

The other day a pupil said "Hi, Miss" in a corridor. It was a friendly gesture, which I ignored as I looked around to see who she was talking to.

Then it dawned on me. I am "Miss". In school, it is one thing, but it is more shocking the first time you see a pupil out of school, when you are not in teacher mode, and the "Hi, Miss" follows. I wanted to shout "No, I'm just me. I'm not Miss when I'm not at school." This conflict of identities is unsettling.

My friends' parents are teachers, my aunt is a teacher. Teachers are older, and I remember what my friends and I thought about ours: they were past it, no matter how young they were. I keep telling myself I'm not past it. I am young, my whole life is ahead of me.

I'm learning to accept that I am a teacher and to integrate my two identities. I imagine it becomes easier, but whenever I go shopping I wonder what my A-level class, a hip group of London girls, would think of what I am trying on. I need to get over it.

The writer wants to remain anonymous

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