Currently, I am on a personal quest to develop my authentic voice. Perhaps, at 51, one would think that I would have already developed my voice. However, if one is blessed to live long enough, life becomes hard. This in turn can shake one’s confidence in not only one’s work, but also in one’s being as a person, resulting in a sort of identity crisis. So, before my 5os decade concludes, developing my voice constitutes the core of my personal quest.
But, what, exactly, is voice?
As is my usual approach, I conducted an Internet search, which led me to discover Todd Henry. The author of three books, Mr. Henry describes voice as not so much what is said, but rather, what is heard. According to Mr. Henry, and I quote,
Voice is an expression through a medium to achieve an impact.
Mr. Henry continues by breaking apart the three building blocks which constitute voice. They are:
- Identity – Who am I? What d0 I really care about? What are my battle lines? What do I stand for?
- Vision – How do I want to shape my work? What impact do I want to have? Where do I want to take my stakeholders?
- Mastery – What skills do I need to have? What new things am I learning? What risks am I taking to stretch and push myself? Am I connecting with my stakeholders? Is my product well-timed?
As I progress as a teacher, and, as I strive to achieve greater meaning in my work, it is important for me to become more closely aligned with my identity, my vision, and my mastery, in order to develop a more authentic voice. Additionally, I desire to create a substantive body of work which will become my best work, and not just work which is good enough for right now. I want for my work to go somewhere. According to Mr. Henry, I not only have a responsibility to myself and to my stakeholders, but also to the work itself.
So…what is my work? For the past 20 years, it has been teaching middle and high school Spanish in independent schools, and, for the 2016-17 school year, it will continue to be. However, my beliefs about how I should teach, how students should learn, how I should assess, and what I should know and understand about language itself, have evolved significantly over the course of the last ten years, to the point that they are beginning to run counter to the beliefs of my school’s language department. Furthermore, I am developing greater interest my work outside of the classroom – specifically, instructional coaching, and workshop facilitation and presentation. My voice is no longer limited to the confines of the four walls of my classroom. Therefore, teaching, in and of itself, is becoming more like a mask that no longer fits well.
Todd Henry’s body of work is providing the frame I need in my personal quest for developing my voice, and living more authentically. I am looking forward to delving more deeply into his writings in the process.