Back to Blog
How To Have an Identity Outside of Being a Teacher

Having an Identity Outside of Being a Teacher

mental health music teachers teacher tips Feb 23, 2021


      What is the first thing you say when you meet someone new? For me, it’s usually something along the lines of “Hi, I’m Rachel! I’m a music teacher - what do you do?” Our identities constantly circle around being teachers, especially in the ever-demanding world of music education. This is true of most jobs, I’ve found, but teachers especially seem to struggle with being able to separate themselves from their teacher-selves. 

Who am I?

      A lot of our identity comes from how we answer the question “Who are you?” or “Tell me a little about yourself.” We hear these questions in interviews all the time, and at casual social events where we don’t know many other people. Why does who I am have to center around my job? After all, that’s only one part of my identity! 

      For me, I could identify as a wife, daughter, friend, gamer, crocheter, reader (not as avid as I used to be, but getting better), nerd, soon-to-be-mom…. The list goes on. When you think about your identity, what could you add besides “teacher”? 

Click here to join the    General Music Mastermind    Facebook group and connect with music educators from all walks of life

Click here to join the General Music Mastermind Facebook group and connect with music educators from all walks of life

Being a teacher in public

      One of the biggest struggles of being a teacher is how people respond when they see us in public. I think we all have a couple awkward stories to share about running into a student when you least expected it to happen. (For me, one that particularly stands out is when my husband, then-fiancé, visited me in college for a surprise date night, and a student’s family sat at a table right next to us.) It is hard to be in tune with our identities when we have to stifle part of ourselves when existing in public spaces. 

      As teachers, we are constantly on alert when out in public. You never know when a student and/or family is going to pop out of nowhere, and you don’t want to be caught off guard. In reality, we should be allowed to have a margarita at our favorite local restaurant (I’d argue that part of my identity is “margarita lover”), but we’ve all heard the horror stories of a family seeing a teacher have a drink and complain to the administration. Should we abstain from that drink? Should we go a town over in order to enjoy time out with friends and family? I’d argue no!

      Keep in mind: I’m not arguing we should all be able to drink irresponsibly and make fools of ourselves in public. Actions do have consequences, after all! I’m simply saying that teachers should be allowed to enjoy a dinner with friends and family without being scrutinized for a beverage.

Teaching is an occupation

      Remember: Teaching is one of many job choices out there. We as teachers are often looked to as selfless, giving, compassionate, and any other number of positive qualities. However, those qualities are often taken for granted, leaving us feeling worthless or less-than if we set boundaries for ourselves and simply say no to extra tasks. I’m preparing for maternity leave as I write this, and it feels so weird knowing that the school year, music classes included, will continue to move forward without me. But as someone who will be adding “mom” to their identity list, I need to remember that school is sometimes going to be put on the back burner for a little while.

      Teaching is a job. We are not our jobs. No one is! We should be able to feel confident in our identities outside of being educators. There is nothing wrong with being in love with your job; in fact, that’s the dream! I’m just here to remind you: You are more than a music teacher. (Shout out to Prince Rhythm Company for their “More than a Music Teacher” t-shirt line!)

      Have you ever found yourself at odds with your teacher-self? Do you ever feel conflicted between your hobbies/interests and your professional life? Let’s talk! You are definitely not alone, and we are here to help support you.

This article was submitted by Rachel Ammons contributing author for Interested in becoming a contributing author? Email resume and writing sample to [email protected]

Save this post for later on Pinterest!

Don't miss a beat!

New moves, motivation, and classes delivered to your inbox. 

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.