During the previous semester my principal had unceremoniously interrupted an interview I was conducting with two parents. He stood beside me, facing the parents, and told them that I was the most dynamic teacher he had on staff. Then he apologized for interrupting and sauntered away. I turned crimson and was at a loss for words.
“Wow!” the father said as he watched my principal leave.
“I paid him to say that,” I responded, trying to recover with some levity.
“I don’t think so,” replied the mother, “my son tells me the same thing. As a matter of fact, we came in tonight just to meet you.”
Once again I felt that feeling of unworthiness.
Excerpt From: A Personal Journey to the Heart of Teaching by John Fioravanti
Pondering this incident I wrote about in 2006, I remember posing the question to myself as to whether this demonstrated false modesty on my part. Then after much reflection on the entire journey that was my career, I concluded that I habitually viewed my actions, with a jaded eye and, therefore, myself.
This conclusion begs the question, how does an educator teach his students to be confident individuals who have a balanced view of their own gifts and shortcomings? Moreover, can such an educator successfully mentor student teachers and young teachers on staff? Tough questions.
It is my understanding of human nature that we tend to put our best foot forward when dealing with others – we put on our masks. There’s nothing sinister in this unless our motives are malevolent. Early on in my career I was desperate to hide my anxiety and fear of failure. I must have become adept in this because sometimes I would receive feedback from students and colleagues that I appeared ‘cool’ or ‘had it all together’. Right.
I suppose that the mask I donned in class each day served some kind of useful purpose, but later in my journey I came to believe that it was holding me back from becoming the teacher I wanted to be. I reached this understanding when I was able to achieve a level of honesty with myself. I worked at discarding the jaded eye and replacing it with a balanced view of self that flowed from acceptance and love.
As I got closer to retirement, I got better at lowering my mask with my students. Not only did I need to be honest with myself, but also I felt compelled to become as unpretentious as I could. Therefore it became a high priority for me to achieve a healthy rapport with my classes. It bothered me when this failed to happen – and I blamed myself. That sounds a bit jaded.
What really allowed me a greater measure of happiness in the classroom was my developing ability to forgive myself. This is at the root of my motive for writing A Personal Journey to the Heart of Teaching. I hoped that if others were struggling in their lives, that my story might give them some insight and inspiration. This motive flowed from the need I have to be helpful to others, which, I now see, manifested itself in my early childhood in Dundas. My hope is that this book can assist readers, no matter their walk of life or their age, to view themselves honestly, to accept who they see, and to love themselves for who they are and who they will become.
John Fioravanti – March 25, 2014