Sunday, April 21, 2019

Identity and Boundaries: A Discussion about Navigating the Personal and the Professional

The TYA field is filled with educators that have different backgrounds, identities, personalities and physical representations. All of these factors shape who these educators are and how they affect the young people they work with.

I started to really examine my physical identity when I moved to Arizona for graduate school this past fall. At surface level I am a petite, blonde, white female, but I am also heavily tattooed and have facial piercings. As a Teaching Artist, every time I enter a classroom I am performing by stepping into a role outside of myself. As an added physical representation of who I am, my tattoos and piercings are simultaneously adding to and shaping that performance.

The more I began to acclimate to Arizona’s culture (very different from the Midwest, my prior home), the more I began to wonder about how my tattoos and piercings influenced the way I was perceived in the classroom. It inspired me to create an autoethnographic research project to not only provide insight into a specific culture of educators, but to also examine the perceptions of adults and children about tattoos on those that teach. I wanted to share how my dual anxiety/love of being a heavily tattooed Teaching Artist has shaped who I am in the classroom.

I interviewed other tattooed educators from around the country and learned about their experiences. However, upon the completion of this project, I wasn’t satisfied in looking at identity solely through my lens. With the help of the blog committee at TYA/USA, I now turn to the community to expand the conversation.

My curiosity about identity and boundaries leads me to wonder…

-What is identity?

-Does an educator’s identity change within a classroom? Does it have to change?

-How does your upbringing/background/etc. affect the way you view young people and your position within a classroom?

-How do you create safe boundaries within a classroom while simultaneously modeling risk taking?

-Can an educator truly share who they are within the limitations of what a teacher “should” and “shouldn’t” be, do, look like, etc.?

-What challenges do we face when balancing our experiences with those of the young people we are working with?

The goal of this discussion is to open up, explore and wonder more about who we are as educators (inside and out) and how that directly relates to the young people we work with. 

Stay tuned to read blog posts about this topic and if you want to join the conversation, feel free to email me your questions or even your blog post of 500-1000 words around this topic. We’ll keep this blog conversation going for a month or so.


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    0 Response

    1. Amanda, I love that you are exploring these thoughts/questions. it’s funny. I’ve got a couple of tattoos but they aren’t usually visible. When I do see teachers with visible tattoos it always crosses my mind, “What do the students wonder about this person who is teaching them by virtue of their tattoos? How do the visible markings on one’s boy alter young people’s perception of who they are and what they have to offer?”

      Thanks for putting this conversation into a public space. I think it’s an interesting topic for discussion and I look forward to where it’s going.

      Tom Arvetis
      Adventure Stage Chicago

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