Have you ever woken early in the morning from a fright; the kind of terror that only a teacher can contrive. It may go something like this. In our sweet dreams we find ourselves standing in front of a classroom full of students that we may know or might not even know. We are probably sharing some key piece of curriculum with perfect timing, because were dreaming . Then the nightmare begins. A student or two starts to act out, they might be talking back or not following directions, and then the classroom erupts into pandemonium. It is at this point that we probably pull ourselves back to consciousness and then look around to see if what we just experienced was real or just a terrifying dream.
After years of teaching I can’t remember ever really losing control of a class. Most days are rather mechanical as we go through our routines. Yet, the closer I get to starting school the more likely that I will experience “teacher nightmares.”
Today, I was talking with a first year teacher who did a wonderful job last year. Yet, she is dreading her second year of teaching, because of the challenges she had faced in her first class experience. I tried to reassure her that it often takes three years, at least, to get comfortable in your role as a teacher. Even then, veteran teachers are not immune from having challenges. One reason for the uncertainly that teachers experience is because of the unpredictable nature of students. No matter how good your routines are, no matter how great your lessons are, regardless of how many years you have under your belt, you never know what students are going to bring to the classroom. In one sense this is the excitement that keeps many of us in teaching. We know that no two days are the same. However, this uncertainty can also lead to anxiety.
The way I overcome my anxieties in teaching is preparation and experience. When I’m nervous about something in teaching I probably haven’t spent enough time thinking it through. I spend a great amount of time talking with other teachers to see what they do in different situations. These collegial conversations have given me strategies, back-up activities, and a strategic direction to handle most situations. My varied experiences have created confidence that enables me to walk into almost any classroom situation and hold my own.
So when our subconscious’s begin to tell us that a nightmare is about to happen. Let’s take time to review our processes, enhance our strategies through collegial conversations, and embrace the new experiences that we will face. These experiences can make us stronger and more effective teacher.
(Tell me of some of your best teacher nightmares in the comments below.)
Also, I’ve started a resource page where we can talk about enhancing our pedagogy. Feel free to share some of the good that goes on in your classroom.