Wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt – Teacher, coach, professor, mentor –
Reader, writer, learner, friend – Knitter, cyclist, cat lover, hiker
A person’s identity is shaped by many different aspects. Family, profession, friends, personal interests are all factors that help shape a person’s identity. Some factors may have more of an influence than others and some may not have any influence at all. As a person grows up in a family, they are influenced by many aspects of their life. A family may influence a person’s sense of responsibility, work ethic, values, religion, and many other aspects of life. Friends and colleagues may influence a person’s core values of respect for others, success, beliefs, and ideals. Personal interests give someone the feeling of wanting to learn more about something or to be involved in something they identify with. It is who a person truly is.
Throughout the day I often feel that one part of my identity is stronger than another. Before I leave the house I am a wife, sometimes a daughter and on exceptional days a mother to my grown sons. As I enter the school building I become a coach, teacher, and learner. Those other parts of my identity are still there but often fade into the background.
Working with students I wonder how do they identify themselves. Do they think of themselves as a learner? A reader? A writer? Or are they identifying themselves as a friend, sibling, or superhero? Many of their identifying factors are shaped when they are not in the classroom with their teachers. Perhaps developed before their first day of Kindergarten. How do we begin to help them shape their identity? How do we make a student identify with being a reader when they may not even be able to name the letters of the alphabet or have any books at home on the shelf to read?
I remember my dear niece explaining to me that one of her four-year-old twins were not reading. She was just retelling the story she had heard many times before, using the pictures as her guide. I exclaimed, “She is a reader!” “She is taking some of her first steps to reading conventionally.” Sometimes all it takes is naming the identifying characteristic to a person to help them see themselves in that light. So whether it be student or colleague take the time this week to NAME the identifying characteristics you see in them to help them on their journey of finding their identity.