Saturday, July 10, 2010

Who I Am. Who Do You Say I Am?

When I first began my doctoral program, my major professor, the one who advises me, told me that I should put on the hat of the PhD and think as a doctor. She reinforced this image of me when she mailed me articles addressing them to "Dr. Vicki Caruana." Initially I was not comfortable with her assessment of who she says I am. It felt presumptuous; it felt like I was wearing a Wonder Woman costume on Halloween (something I could never really pull off) and was temporary at best.

Five years later, and having been subject to many other professors' opinions of who they say I am, who I am has been shattered, pieced back together, and shattered again. At this point, on the precipice of being conferred as a "doctor of philosophy of education" the image I see looks more like a mosaic of unrelated pieces that somehow, upon closer inspection, reveal beautiful patterns of color and light. I am more than the sum of my parts. I am more than you say I am.

Whether I teach college seniors or sixth graders, all are still in the process of becoming. Our transformations are never complete. Every interaction, every experience promises to alter our appearance. Who I am and who you say I am sometimes coincide, sometimes collide; always influence each other. Our children, my students, rarely look in the mirror at their reflection alone. Someone is always there with them. It may be the airbrushed starlet in the magazine, the "can-do-no-wrong" older brother, the parent who loved school (or hated school), the boy who says he loves you when no one else does, or the movie that pokes fun at the family that you call your own.

Identity is a complex thing. Who I am is only really known to me. It's not easy to articulate who I am to you. I don't always understand myself well enough to put it into words. But an awareness of the many shapes that make up the mosaic that is me is a great first step at making sense of what I see when I look in the mirror. And I imagine that in order to understand who your child is, you must first understand who you are. Who do you see when you look in the mirror?