Julie A. Cunningham

Academic Advisor

The Aware Educator

According to Dennis Francis of Commonwealth Educational Trust, there are eight characteristics of an effective teacher. Rather than list all of them, I wanted to focus for a moment on one:

An effective teacher is aware.

I would like to hone that further by adding:

An effective teacher is self-aware.

In my new position, the steepest learning curve has not been acquiring new knowledge and skills. For a research dork like myself, that is actually just plain fun. Nope. It has been learning about myself, my motivations, and my actions. I need to learn to be more self-aware.  More clued in. More mindful. More enlightened.

You see, I am a beaver. With a dash of lion thrown in for good measure. (I like the animal personality explanations better than the DISC or sanguine/ phlegmatic/ melancholy/ choleric temperament descriptions… but it’s all the same thing. You can take a quiz to see what you are if you don’t already know. ) In my work and personal life, order is very important to me. I plan ahead. I think things through and then act. I need structure in order to relax. I see issues that will come up two weeks from now- and it makes it difficult to not address those things immediately. I need to brain dump in the evenings before bed or I can’t sleep. I research and learn for the fun of it. I make rapid connections of thoughts, ideas, and people in my head. I think deep and have to process ideas. I enjoy talking about ideas with people, but too much time with people drains me.

Those traits can be great strengths, but also great weaknesses. It’s important to take time to ask ourselves some hard questions about the traits we exhibit. Francis asks educators to think about the following questions:

  • Who am I?
  • How do I learn?
  • How do I work in a community?
  • What motivates my behavior?

Now, these sound all fluffy and philosophical, but they have a very real impact on students. I have added a fifth question:

  • How does my personality influence learners?

Awareness is crucial, and begins with self-examination.

(Beyond our own personal awareness is a need to be aware of how each student in our sphere of influence would answer these questions…. but that is a topic for another day!)

Any other beavers out there? Has awareness of your personality traits changed your interactions with students and colleagues? Can you pick out some of these traits in your colleagues? Does that make a difference in how you view interactions with them? 

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