Social pressure

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Note: I wrote this three months ago, prior to teaching my first class, and am just posting it now.

Usually we think of social pressure, or the outside expectations of society, as a negative force: the pressure to conform, change negatively, to be inauthentic, be someone else other than who we are. But, like all forms of power, it can be used for constructive purposes.

Last week, literally shaking with nerves, I approached the classroom where I would be teaching my very first class of students in Turkey. It was my first time teaching this age group (university students, some the exact same age as I), my first time as a solo lead teacher (in the past, I had always co-taught), and my first time teaching Turkish students. More than these first times, though, I was nervous about my the legitimacy of my role of authority over a group of my peers. I’m not a real teacher. How can I possibly run a classroom and be responsible for the education and life chances of thirty individuals? What right do I have to be here, telling other people what is wrong and what is right? I can’t even answer that for myself. What do I have to offer?

Finally, I reached my designated room number, torturously stepped into the classroom, delayed the fatal moment a bit longer by twiddling with the computer and my books, and finally straightened up and faced the students.

They looked back at me for what felt like a long, long moment.

“Hi, hoca!” one of them said. And in that moment, I was a teacher. In their eyes, I was a teacher, so I became one. They expected me to be a teacher, with all the knowledge, confidence, and leadership to offer–so I became one.

“Good morning, class!” I responded back.

We can always choose who we want to be, but sometimes to become better than we are, we need the social pressure and expectations of others to push us forward.

(This is also known as the Pygmalion effect)

Photo: “Identity map” made during one of my early classes

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