The Personal in the Professional

Cremin, Teresa (2019). The Personal in the Professional. In: Ogier, Susan ed. A Broad and Balanced Curriculum in Primary Schools: Educating the whole child. Exploring the Primary Curriculum. Sage, pp. 219–229.


This book is designed to support the profession in educating ’the whole child’, but what about the ‘whole teacher’? What about you? We enter classrooms as people, humans with interests, value and morals, and lives outside school, and whilst our focus as teachers is of course on the children, who we are and what we bring inevitably influences our teaching and thus impacts on every child we teach. Why did you choose teaching I wonder? What in your personality or your past might have drawn you to this challenging profession?

Your personal take on education and what you might uniquely offer will depend in part on your conception of teaching. Do you see it as an ‘objective’ science like Hattie (2012) and Coe and Waring (2017) for example? Perhaps you see it as a craft, as Marland (1975) does, a set of techniques you can learn to use regardless of circumstance? Certainly policy makers tend to favour these two purportedly simple conceptions. Still others see teaching as an art (Eisner, 1979; Bennett, 2012), a ‘complex creative enterprise concerned with the promotion of human learning and involving imagination, sensitivity and personal response’ (Richards, 2018, p.8). I too view teaching as a complex artistic and professional enterprise; albeit with science and craft elements, and one in which relationships matter, indeed the relationship between teacher and child is at the heart of the practice of education. So who each teacher is counts, as well as who each child is. How can we remove the humans from the enterprise, the children from the learning, the teacher from the teaching, the personal from the professional? We simply cannot.

In this chapter, we consider these issues, explore our interests and values, our personal and professional identities and strategies to help us learn about young people as unique learners. We discuss ways to bridge from this knowledge and understanding into the classroom in order to create culturally responsive child-centred curricula and communities of learners. We also examine two projects in which teachers were invited to engage personally as well as professionally and case studies of three teachers. Carol found out more about a boy’s pleasure in hunting with his father and found ways to link to this, Sophie opened up as a learner in class and taught more authentically and Claire, after reflecting on herself and the children as readers, began to teach differently. Over time their altered practices impacted positively on the young people’s learning and helped build stronger learning communities. Teachers’ (and children’s) life experiences and teachers’ personal and professional identities matter, and you can draw on these to support young learners.

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