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The mystery of identity

(Image: How much do we choose to reveal?)

This hauntingly beautiful creature gave me a bit of a fright last summer on a trip to Australia – Don’t worry, there was a fence and I was also assured that she had long ago lost her appetite for tourists. Apparently iPhones and loud clothes are quite hard to digest. The encounter did get me thinking, though, of the role of a teacher in knowing their learners.

The image reminds me of our first contact with our new, fellow learners. They invariably choose to reveal small parts of their identities to us and we, likewise, choose to reveal a select smattering of who we are, to them. Our intentions are also hidden beneath the surface, assumed, rarely stated. As education tries to shift to place the learner at the centre of the educational process, the development of an understanding of the learner as an individual is no longer just a nice byproduct of the teaching and learning process, it has become the driving force behind it, the starting point for all learning journeys in an inclusive, differentiated classroom.

In recognition of the complexity of individual identities, particularly given the delicate and fluid nature of our self-awareness, the three following questions can be helpful when trying to critically piece together the puzzles of student identity in the classroom:

  • What is revealed? (The identity)

  • What is the origin of my interpretation? (The critique)

  • Why has this piece been revealed? (The intention)

  • How do we know the truth? (The caution)

Above all, keep challenging those assumptions and searching for the missing pieces.

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