dressing up as teachers

Parker-Rees states that “When we learn to be teachers we begin by dressing up as teachers and our understanding of the role develops all too slowly as we strive to shore up the gap between the branches of what we know teachers do and the roots of our own feelings, knowledge and experience.  In Vygotsky’s terms, it is only by bluffing our way into the interpersonal social processes of teaching that we can begin to benefit from guided participation (Rogoff, 1990), the engagement with competent practitioners that enables us to organize and internalize our understanding of the rules that inform the practice of teaching. / Dressing up as a princess, a pirate or a mum can help children to develop playful approaches which will help them to learn how to ‘dress up’ as a son, daughter, pupil or friend.”[1]

Of course, as Parker-Rees also observes, there is an “important distinction between dressing and dressing up.  To dress is to organize, tidy up or simplify; we arrange plates on a dresser and we dress stone blocks by squaring them up and smoothing their faces so that they will fit together.  When people talk of dressing for dinner they do not mean that they have spent the day naked, although changing into smooth, starched, formal evening dress can be seen as a way of covering one’s complications.  Dressing, in this older sense, is conforming….”[2]  The act of conforming is not one that appeals to me, but how to know one is not simply conforming when one dresses up as a teacher?

Parker-Rees goes on to write that “Margaret Buchmann reminds us that dressing up as a teacher involves putting on a role which is to some degree independent of the person:

The moral nature of teaching – which also requires being genuinely oneself – does not remove the need for role orientation.  Instead, a proper understanding of authenticity in teaching builds in the idea of external standards within which teachers make authentic choices.”[3]

The concept of role-play and dress-up also fits perfectly my belief that we ‘story our lives.’  Karen Coats explains this nicely when she says, “From our very first beginnings, we are fed stories, embraced by stories, nourished by stories.  The only way we come to make sense of the world is through the stories we are told.  They pattern the world we have fallen into, effectively replacing its terrors and inconsistencies with structured images that assure us of its manageability.  And in the process of structuring the world, stories structure us as beings in that world.  We begin to tell our own stories, fashioning a self out of the stories and narrative patterns we have received from our culture.”[4]  We fit our lives to the stories we tell about ourselves; we play out the roles we choose in ‘the story of our life,’ with all its possibilities and constraints.  In fact, as Kenyon and Randall put it, “we not only have stories but are stories.”[5]

Similarly, Jean Rockel observes that “before we can see and hear a child’s story as teachers we need to consider our own story.”[6]  I think that part of this process of considering our own story is considering what a teacher is and why we choose to become one in our story.


[1] Pp68-69 Parker-Rees, R. (1999). Protecting playfulness. In L. Abbott & H. Moylett (Eds.), Early education transformed (pp.61-72). London: Falmer Press.

[2] P68 Parker-Rees, R. (1999). Protecting playfulness. In L. Abbott & H. Moylett (Eds.), Early education transformed (pp.61-72). London: Falmer Press.

[3] P70 Parker-Rees, R. (1999). Protecting playfulness. In L. Abbott & H. Moylett (Eds.), Early education transformed (pp.61-72). London: Falmer Press.

[4] P1 Karen Coats (2004) Looking Glasses and Neverlands; Lacan, Desire, and Subjectivity in Children’s Literature.  University of Iowa Press: Iowa City

[5] Restorying our lives; personal growth through autobiographical reflection. Gary Kenyon and William Randall (Westpor, Connecticut and London, Praeger,1997) [ISBN 0275956636 p11

[6] P7 Rockel, J. “Images of the child – an historical overview.” The First Years: Ngā Tau Tuatahi. New Zealand Journal of Infant and Toddler Education.  4;2. pp8-12

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About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
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