For my career, I intend to teach music privately. I will own my own business in my home and teach students of all ages. As a part of my business I will serve students also in small group classes and other special events that I will design in my business. A ‘typical performance’ would include being in front of any students. For example, a student arrives for a lesson, and I am waiting for him/her. I greet him, and he comes in and begins to prepare his instrument and materials. I may glance over his materials, checking anything he was assigned to practice or work on in the previous week.
I may also chat with him about how his week has been. Then, the lesson will proceed, and we will work on performing on his instrument. He will play and I will critique his performance and have him try things different ways until he improves. I may make use of metronomes, tuning devices, or my own demonstration to help him learn. At the end of the lesson, I will assign him new materials to work on or practice, and see him out the door. This performance related to Goffman’s idea of “rituals” that occur in the social situation.
Regardless of my mood or desires, I will ask the student how he is doing and listen to his answers. The lesson will proceed in roughly the same fashion every week. The student will come to expect when I will interrupt his performance to give criticism, because he will come to know what I consider unacceptable. The lesson becomes a series of rituals that are performed week after week, lesson after lesson. The members of my team will consist of all of my students, as well as their parents, many of whom may sit in on lessons always or from time to time.
I could not be a teacher if I did not have students, so they are a necessary part of my team. It is the direct interaction between myself and them that sets the “stage,” as Goffman puts it in his dramaturgical explanation of social behavior. The parents factor in because they change the dynamics of the lesson situation when they are present. In these cases, I may choose to address parents in addition to or instead of the students in certain situations, and I will certainly be aware of their presence as I am working with the student.
With some of the younger students, or students who have problems behaving, the parents may play a strong role in the lesson situation, guiding the student’s behavior and attempting to keep him on task. Outside of the lesson situation, it is possible that my mentors could also be considered supporting players, as I may turn to them for help with difficult students or situations to solve, and they may lend me moral support in making decisions about teaching or lessons. All of the people who play into what happens in the lesson situation could be considered team members in some sense, even if they never meet one another.
Discrepant roles are likely limited in this situation, since for the most part, there is no audience. However, the teacher himself (i. e. me) might be a discrepant role, since the teacher is leading everyone’s reactions and ideas, and guiding the “audience’s” perception of the situation. Parents may function in a discrepant role, and well, since as both observers and participants in the situation, they may guide how they want their children to react, and how I choose to react because of their presence. Beyond this, there are probably not other discrepant roles.
Should I be teaching a larger group, one student could serve in a discrepant role by more actively participating in the class and showing the rest of the group how to behave and react to what is going on around them. The rest of the class could serve as an audience in that case, assuming that some of the members of the class were feeling rather passive. The communications that would go on in lesson situations could be in or out of character, depending on the student, whether or not the parent was present, and the mood itself.
In a general lesson situation where the parent and child were both present and the child was fairly young (not yet a teenager), communication would generally be entirely in character. That is, the communication would be formal and appropriate for the student and parent. However, should the student leave the room and the parent remain, the communication may lapse into out of character situations, where the teacher and the parent are sharing information or commiserating as two adults.
It is also possible that if the student is older, teenage or adult, that the communication may be out of character, because of the teacher being able to identify with this student better on a person-to-person level, and not finding the need to remain aloof and professionally distant. In these situations, the communication would move often between in and out of character as the teacher goes from having a general conversation with the student to actually providing instruction. The impression one makes is difficult to manage at times, but it is also important.
As a teacher, I would like to be seen as a professional at all times, someone who does not let emotions or outside situations affect my work. I would also like to be seen as energetic, upbeat, and involved in the work I do. This relates to maintaining what Goffman calls the “front. ” The behavior at the front is the professional impression one makes, while behavior at the “back” or “sides” is related off-stage behavior in actors. Since teaching is often related to being onstage, this is not a totally foreign concept.
As a teacher, I must forget any concerns I have when I enter the room to teach a student. I must focus on them and their needs, and not anything else that is going on in my life, good or bad. This is not always possible, and when it is not, I must explain as briefly as possible, apologize, and continue to try to focus solely on the student. I must also smile and use happy tones of voice when I am speaking, even if I do not feel that way. One of the hardest things in teaching is remaining optimistic and positive even when students are struggling or, more likely, refusing to work.
It is difficult for a teacher to see students come into a lesson every week with homework undone and no practicing having been completed. What can I teach a student who won’t work on skills at home? But in order to keep my impressions positive and my front appropriate, I must broach the subject of needing to practice more carefully, so as not to discourage the student or to allow them to see how unhappy I am with their lack of preparedness. Teachers are constantly striving for diplomacy in even the hardest situations.
Goffman’s work allows me to look at my future career with a much different perspective. I consider that I am on stage and that I am an actor in a play I have created and entered into, but I do not control all the variables. I control myself, but I react to how my students choose to be. It is interesting to note the possibilities that arise in every situation when there are so many different things happening at once, as Goffman points out. However, it is good to think about and try to use in work situations.
Courtney from Study Moose
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