Images of the Teacher

Our inherited beliefs often include formulaic images of what it means to be a teacher. Close your eyes for a moment and consider what a typical teacher looks like for you. What particular qualities does this teacher possess? What objects are attached to this teacher? Is there a blackboard nearby? Or perhaps a red apple involved? Kalmbach, Phillips & Carr (2006) suggest be~coming teachers go online and search for teacher images to find patterns in the way teachers are portrayed.

Is the teacher pictured male or female? What is the teacher’s ethnicity? Is the teacher in the center of the picture, placed in a prominent position? Is the teacher in a nontraditional setting? Are there pictures of students teaching students? (p. 17)

It is important to pay attention to the images that surround us and that may influence us on subtle and sometimes unconscious levels. If you look carefully you will see that teachers often inherit traits that are socially normed from a time that is no longer relevant to today’s classrooms. Another question you might have as a be~coming a teacher is: how is my identity as a person different from my identity as a teacher? In TI, we wonder how this binary might be disrupted? Are these really two different things? In what ways might my out of school identity overlap or inform the identity I bring to my teaching?

In section 5.1 we suggested roles that a teacher might take on, given their particular paradigm: the positivist as knowledge transmitter, the progressive as facilitator, the social justice teacher as equalizer, and the indigenous teacher as relational connector. You may have noticed that these categories feel a bit artificial, the descriptions stereotypical, of something that is in reality very complex. Using such categories in certain ways, could lead to a restrictive understanding of who we are as teachers and might even cause psychological harm. That being said, categorizing images can also be useful in that they may point to something that already exists, giving us a place from which to have conversations. These types of labels might also help us think about new possibilities around our roles as teachers.

Ayurvedic Typologies

There are numerous ways to explore human typologies (a way of classifying human characteristics) such as Meyers-Briggs and Enneagram. We have chosen to work with Ayurvedic Typologies because it supports a wholistic approach to classification and because it presents only five categories. In our work with psychologist, Indrus Piché (March 2013) around the edge of counseling and in combination with notes from Dr. Claudia Welch, we would like to present to you a system of typologies that we find useful in discovering meaning in who we are as teachers. It is a way for us to look at ourselves that is less binary and also less static than many common approaches in current cultures. We draw from Ayurveda, a medical and philosophical system that can be translated as “the science of life.” It is a practice that originated in India some ten thousand years ago, and includes a comprehensive study of anatomy, physiology, pathology, diagnostic systems and treatment strategies. In India, it is practiced alone or together with western (allopathic) medicine in hospitals, clinics, private practices, cities and villages. As it relates to education and working in classrooms, there are two features of Ayurveda that can be useful. They are the concepts of Prakruti and Vikruti: an individual’s unique constitution and current imbalance.

As it relates to education and working in classrooms, there are two features of Ayurveda that can be useful. They are the concepts of Prakruti and Vikruti: an individual’s unique constitution and current imbalance.

Prakruti: Your Inborn Constitution

Prakruti is an individual’s baseline constitution and according to Ayurveda, is determined at the moment of conception and relates to inherited or permanent physical and emotional characteristics and tendencies. These would include qualities such as height, natural eye and hair color and innate personality traits. That is not to say that traits cannot change over time - showing up as different behaviour in different situations and times over life. We caution you to avoid reading these descriptions as concrete assessments of your personality. Rather, use the language and descriptions as a way to understand disposition through a different worldview.

Ayurveda teaches that the Universe, and her components, are all made from five basic, archetypal “elements”. These are not synonymous with the elements of our periodic table of elements. They are earth, water, fire, air and ether. Read about the characteristics of each of the elements on the following pages. Each element yields certain qualities that manifest in the universe and in each human being, as his or her individual constitution. There are as many different constitutions as there are human beings. There is far more complexity to how these elements interact and associate themselves and this can be further explored at Dr. Claudia Welch’s website.

Vikruti: Your Current Imbalance

Another step towards understanding health and wellbeing (remember this is physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental health) according to Ayurvedic principles is to understand if and how we have strayed from our natural, healthy constitution. Vikruti is a Sanskrit word loosely translated as a "changed condition of body, mind and consciousness." In Ayurveda, it is most often used to describe your current state of health (or ill-health) in relation to your Prakruti, or "natural state." This can show up as under-expressed or over-expressed elements (e.g. too much Earth, or not enough Water). Given the season and context of life certain elements may be dominant or recessive in our personalities. When all four elements are in proportional harmony theorists such as Jung have called this “wholeness” and Maslow deemed it “self-actualization.”

Your calling or vocation will often call on you to enhance your least developed element (or Vikruti). You may be drawn to people and partners who have a strong presence of the element that is not expressed in your personality; this may be an unconscious way to move towards wholeness. This worldview, though very different from some western-world understandings of disposition, can help us to understand ourselves and the role of our disposition in how we relate to others.
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Earth (Jung: Sensation)

  • Objective
  • Grounded, represent the practical, realistic material side of our nature
  • Doers; they can actualize things
  • Care for their bodies and care about how they are working
  • Stable, secure, structured environment into which we can function
  • Patient and reliable, seeks the practical and most logical answer to a problem
  • Can be a stabilizing force in a relationship contributing structure and organization to achieve balance and harmony
  • Fosters growth

Over or under expressions
  • Stubborn, rigid, dogmatic personality
  • Fixed, wants comfort zone in life, afraid to take risks
  • Too much attention to detail- gets bogged down
  • Love of the material side of life, the comforts of material well- being, material worth can be over emphasized
  • Experiences insecurity often, scarcity – cannot see the forest through the trees
  • Overly attached to ideas, ways of being, people
  • Stinginess, materialism, resists change, and miss the big picture
  • Over developed: dogmatic
  • Under developed: scarcity

Air (Jung: Thinking)

  • Objective
  • Realm of the intellect and our spiritual nature. It is through the process of thinking that we develop ideas
  • Ability to communicate well, inventiveness (along with the vision of fire)
  • Ability to be unattached
  • Will often give originality and versatility to the personality
  • Different perspective, rise above – helps us see the big picture
  • Our spiritual self- transcend the mundane – lifts us out of the everydayness of life.
  • Soaring- transports us
  • Disciplined

Over or under expressions

  • Living in a dream world with unrealistic goals, flights of fancy
  • Air should seek to maintain practicality and develop consistency in dealing with the real world
  • Flit from one idea to another- off in a dream world- if you have a teacher that is predominantly earth might be inclined to label strong airs as ADD.

Fire (Jung: Intuition)

  • Subjective
  • Opposite of earth
  • Hardest element to totally master
  • Extremely energetic; can damage quickly if out of control
  • Creative and spontaneous
  • Vision into future
  • Expects the best, expectancy, vitality
  • Sees life as play; takes risks
  • Performers, light up a room
  • Leadership – hard to be a true leader without some fire

Over or under expressions

  • Anger (out of control)
  • Goes quick – catches quickly
  • Callous or irresponsible
  • Self-centered (their needs come first)
  • Lack of perceiving under-currents
  • Don’t like day-to-day or mundane; seeks sparks
  • Prone to drama
  • Over-extend; over-promise

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Water (Jung: Feeling)

  • Subjective
  • Personal relationships are primary
  • Compassionate and empathetic
  • Expects change and does not expect lasting structure
  • Ability to be vulnerable and emotional
  • Does not try to reason out; feels it out
  • Sentimental
  • Guided by feeling

Over or under expressions

  • Wishy-washy
  • Cannot make up mind; vagueness
  • If it cannot be felt it is insignificant
  • Immature about the world of ideas and thinking
  • Clingy and possessive
  • Dark and broody
  • Depression
  • No boundaries
  • Soap-opera drama (young feminine)

Ether (Jung: mixture)

  • Comfortable with the mystery of all life; Curious about life
  • Prime element latent in all things, providing space and balance for all elements to unfold
  • Essential to our sense of connectedness with spirit and wellbeing
  • Promotes our sense of joy and union

Over or under expressions

  • Feelings of grief and separateness

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