The first day of school looms ahead – and you find yourself biting your nails. It does not matter if you are a veteran teacher who has taught for thirty years or more, or a recent graduate from a teaching college facing your first class as a solo teacher. It’s just normal to get a bit of “stage fright” as the first day of school rolls around.
Is it anticipation, nerves, or just plain fear?
As teachers, we all have good reasons to examine our feelings and emotions when faced with the challenges of the year of teaching ahead. It takes a great deal of energy to be a teacher. It requires high levels of commitment, responsibility, knowledge, and leadership skills to handle a class and to guide and engage students in learning. How you feel about your work affects its quality and the degree of pleasure you take in it.
Being willing to be shut inside a classroom with a large group of children actually takes real courage. As teachers, we are less free than business people to take breaks, go out to lunch on the spur of the moment, or to walk away from our responsibilities. While we may not work 9 – 5, many of us actually devote all our waking hours to our classroom concerns. Teaching requires some real sacrifices – and each time we start a new year, it may be wise to look at how well we have balanced our “real lives’ outside the classroom with the rewards we receive from teaching.
As school starts, there are always the unknowns – will our class contain “mischief makers” or “sweethearts?” Will the class size be larger or smaller than previous years? Will the classroom facilities foster learning? Will you have all of the tools you need to be effective? Will the larger context of the school environment contribute to the success of the class?
You will be dealing with the school environment and many social factors as well. Will you be able to “get along” with all the people you will encounter – your own students, other students in the school, other teachers, the administrators, and the parents and others in the community?
You will be juggling schedules, objectives, materials, regular classwork, homework, grades and much more. Will you have the organizational skills, patience, and energy to keep up with it all? Having the energy to ‘do it all’ becomes a real question for many teachers. The rate of “burnout” in the teaching profession is high. Make a point of looking at how well you take care of yourself. You will want to build in pleasures, relaxation, and refreshment of various kinds to help you continue to enjoy and be effective in your work.
As a teacher, you function as much more than a “learning resource.” You are an active member of a larger community. You will be engaged in the social context, both outside and inside the classroom. Influences that shape your class come from many directions – from people with a variety of personalities, as well as from the specific facilities and the particular “atmosphere” of your school.
People will look to you to be a model citizen. Parents entrust their children to you care. The future lives of your students can depend on how well you have been able to engage them in learning. Your students may see you as a model to emulate. If, in any aspect of your life, you feel the need to improve to live up to those expectations, then this is the time to work on making positive changes. How you live your life – both inside and outside the classroom – makes a difference to your students.
As the Boy Scout motto teachers, your best protection is preparation. Of course, you cannot prepare for every eventuality but you can prepare sufficiently to feel confident that you can handle most of your important work as a teacher.
I wish for teachers everywhere a most successful school year and to take care and be safe!