I have a seemingly-fragmented comment: I think everyone is right and yet no one is right. Think of our self as a pie chart. Depending on what motivates you or how you decide to allocate sections (time, efforts, thoughts, training, etc.), your pie slices may even change with the day, week, month or year (or events within each of those time periods).
The professional slices definitely change as we age, enlarging as we are learning, narrowing with family concerns overriding and (possibly) expanding when we are alone again. But then retirement or job change happens, and our pie slices must begin again, organizing by immediate needs and concerns and falling into place when we re-establish routines with which we are happy.
Our professional selves are part of us, and we just decide how large a part of us those are. When we choose to have a family, the professional is in there – how else to manage children’s demands on our time, their behaviors, and helping them become their best self? The academic self is also always with us because we originally had interests that drove our educational experiences. Sometimes those interest change or become more intense, so we take more courses and learn more. Expanded learning may or may not change the size of our academic slice. Again, we decided how large that self is.
Some part of us is what you may be addressing: the personal, essential self. This is the self that has: the beliefs and values; the moral characteristics; the psychological states or conditions; the emotional and social skills. These all guide us and shape our behaviors, responses, thoughts, intents. That essential self is what drives the professional and academic selves, what integrates those selves together into a seemingly coherent “overall-self” that we present as who we are.
Each of us organizes our selves differently and at different levels of effectiveness. I, for one, have a mind that constantly chatters and asks, “Why?” That is what has driven me in my teaching approaches – why a child demonstrated (or not) a particular behavior or skill. The answer to the question determined my response or another query: “How?” The how’s were how to teach better, how to prevent, how to include, how to….
I look for the patterns in children’s behaviors, in events in my life, in social conditions and those either answer my questions or drive me to investigate some more. I have relied heavily on my child development courses, but what I was taught differs greatly from what I have learned over time. Like you, I was taught theory, but learning what that theory looks like on two feet drives and actually integrates all my selves to be who I am in the classroom.
My essential self rules with compassion and structure, my professional self rules with watching for those cues that tell me what is happening within the child, the academic self is probably the smallest slice in the classroom because it is the skills or tools I use on a daily basis.
Does this analysis actually matter? I think not, because no one will change as a result of my awarenesses of self. Changes will come when others see how successful my students are.