The Masks We Wear pt1


It was Diogenes who searched the world for an honest man and found not one.  I have been perplexed about this story since I first heard it at a young age.  I’ve often wondered whether I was honest, or if my teachers were when I was in school.   Was there any truth in what Diogenes said?

When I was younger, I also heard different analogies about having to wear many different hats or walking in someone else’s shoes.  And yet, how does this apply to finding an honest person?

After years of teaching and watching students and teachers alike, I’ve come to an understanding.  We don’t “wear different hats.”  In a world that has become quite literally insane with the obsession of entertainment, we instead, create and wear different masks for different audiences.  We as adults put on a “mask” when we have to do something that goes against our nature.  We have deluded ourselves into believing that if we pretend that we like something, that it won’t appear as if we dislike it.  In Theater this is called Suspension of Disbelief.

In entertainment terms, we the audience want to be fooled.  Therefore we allow ourselves to believe what we want to believe.  For example, let’s say that a student doesn’t want the world to know that they are hurting inside.  They don the mask of apathy to redirect the attention of their actions to something that they can deal with.  Why do students wear masks?  Perhaps our students wear masks because we as adults have taught them to; either intentionally or unintentionally.

After 15 years in education, I have the privilege of helping mentor teachers on designing engaging lessons.  My campus has a design center and our PLC teams come in four times throughout the year for a half day design session using Schlechty’s Design Qualities and SAMR Technology Integration.  We examine who we are designing lessons for (who our students are) and then create lessons to engage them targeting those traits we’ve described.  This past week, I noticed that two of my teams when describing their student’s mentioned some negative traits: discipline issues and lack of motivation.  I didn’t think anything of it until after we met.

The team that cited classroom discipline issues were the teachers who exhibited continual off-task behavior while we were designing.  The team that cited a lack of motivation exhibited just that, a lack of motivation to carry through with the design.  I know that students learned through mimicry at young ages.  But what if, the student traits that the teams were describing were learned from modeled behavior by the teachers.  Or is it that the students had that big of an impact on their teacher’s behavior?

Either way, we should be careful of the masks that we wear in front of students.  Because there is a chance that they will duplicate what we model and become miniature versions of ourselves.

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