Each of us has a professional identity. What is yours? You may think you are looked upon as a hard working educational technology leader; but your identity, what others think of you, may be very different.

For example, I know a few folks who feel they are going ‘over and above’ to do their jobs and that people recognize their effort. In fact, their identity  among professional colleagues is that they are  folks who can’t be relied on. Why do people feel that way about them? They don’t return phone calls or e-mails consistently. This inconsistency leaves people hanging, and after a while they have lost faith in them.

There are those that attend various meetings and commit to doing things and then get so busy with their ‘real’ jobs that they don’t have time to follow through. It’s not the end of the world to do this once; but because they’ve repeated the pattern, these folks become known as ‘all talk’.

There are folks I know who have identities of ‘self promoters’. At meetings with their colleagues they have all the answers. They talk a lot about how wonderful things are in their districts; and rarely listen to what others have to say. It’s all about them.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are those with the ‘I can’t win’ identity. As their budgets shrink and their aged computers age even further, they see no correlation with their own ineffectiveness as leaders. However, their colleagues do. Whatever their image is of themselves, these folks are seen as negative and weak. They are often sarcastic, “Sure, my teachers can’t wait to use technology.” Their signature responses to suggestions from others are things like, “I’ve tried that.” “You don’t understand, that won’t work with my (insert group here: teachers, administrators, superintendent, principal, board of education).”

I know folks who have the reputation of having great ideas; but little follow through.

There are those who are known as ‘control freaks’. Everything has to go through them. Every request, every issue, every piece of information must pass through their filters. They control the flow of information to their superintendents, administrators, and teachers. They are guardians of the gate.

Their are those that deal in ‘drama’. They’re involved in conflicts where ever they go. They are well-known among their colleagues because they are always talking about some other colleague (usually negatively) when they aren’t around.

It is a good idea to give some thought to what identities we have created for ourselves. We need a good mirror because what we think our identity is may be very different from how others see us.

A practice that I employ before meetings is to ask myself, “What identity do I want to have with the others in this meeting?” My identity for a specific meeting might be focused on:

a trusted adviser, a team player,  a good listener, someone with specific expertise, someone that is organized, a strong leader, an individual with vision, an individual with experience, etc.

Focusing on our identity is not play-acting or being manipulative.

It is simply being deliberate about the actions we take in the world.


4 thoughts on “Identity

  1. Peter – Your comments hit home on many levels. I believe I have been in those same meeting you mention, and I am sure I have taken turns in the roles you mention. What a gift you have to share your thoughts openly. This is a gift we need to have prior to each meeting as a reminder of what we aspire to be. Self-reflection is hard, and self-discipline and practice are tough as well. The change needs to become the norm.

    Thanks for the reminders.

  2. I have experienced the worst and the best, as you have known me through the years. I can only say that when you are experiencing the best aspects of what public education can offer: its challenges, the ability to build Capacity, the teamwork, the healthy sharing of ideas and dreams (and the drive and support to make them happen), then we must cherish and acknowledge these times as being special. My colleagues are in this zone now and you have been a part of us through our journey. Come and visit us and write a second part of your essay on “Identity”, the part that reflects on dogged determination and professional leadership among the ranks.

    I promise to reflect on your post. I keep coming back to priorities.

    Hope you are well.

    Lou Cuglietto

  3. Amy,
    I think you have it right when you mention ‘practice’. As educators we sometimes think our schooling is enough and it is rare that we have specific leadership practices. In order to be more effective it’s essential to fully participate in practices that are tailored to your own strengths and weaknesses.

    Malcom Gladwell has identified ‘practice’ as the underlying element of highly successful people.


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