What by now seems like an eternity ago, you decided to go to school to become an elementary educator. You did the research. You found a school that fit for you, either on or offline. You have an accredited degree, you did the student teaching, and after the stress-filled process of applying for jobs, you’re hired.
You’ve probably been asking yourself that question for days or weeks or months at this point, laying awake thinking about every possible thing that could go wrong that first day of school. Between the mental anxieties and physical task of keeping dozens of students interested in what you have to say all day, five days a week, you may be, and be honest here: Freak. Ing. Out.
Don’t worry. It’s natural, obviously with any job, and particularly when you’re dealing with the education and well-being of other people’s children. Below are five fears new teachers are bound to feel and simple answers to how to overcome them.
I’m outnumbered! Trying to take care of one child is a daunting enough of a task, but 25? That’s positively Herculean! Ok, let’s take a deep breath here. Remember, these kids will look up to you, literally and figuratively: YOU ARE THE AUTHORITY. Which isn’t to say you have to be mean; don’t overcompensate your fear for abuse of power. Try to remember your attitude toward your teachers when you were younger. What did they do to make you respect them and make you want to do your homework? Be stern but empathetic. Respect the kids and they will no doubt respect you.
I have to teach all these subjects?! Obviously a key difference to teaching early childhood and elementary school as opposed to high school or college, is that you have to teach a variety of subjects. While this may seem intimidating, you don’t need a PhD in Differential Equations to teach 2nd grade math, or to have studied abroad in Africa to understand and teach its geography. Be confident in the knowledge you’ve acquired throughout your life. You know more than you think you do.
How am I ever going to take care of the health and safety of all these kids? Kids will have food allergies or be picky eaters. Some might be bullies or have a hard time paying attention in class. Some will be distracted by iPhones and other gadgets. And of course, kids will be careless and clumsy and bump into walls and scrape their knees on the playground. Your job will naturally be to make sure all the kids get the proper education they deserve in a safe and nurturing environment. Prepare ahead of time by communicating with parents and learning of any learning disabilities, food allergies, or irregular behaviors that you may need to be aware of. Likewise, communicate with parents about the potential risks of online behaviors, including student interactions over social media.
What if the parents don’t like me? It’s obviously a major risk you’ll have to be willing to accept, no matter how nice or prepared you think you may be. Keep in mind that as a teacher, you are also part of a community and want to strengthen community relationships. The children may move on to the next grade, but the parents are still your neighbors and other committed members of your community.
What if I’m not good at it? There’s only one way to get better at teaching: KEEP DOING IT! Yes, many of the reasons above may make the profession seem intimidating, but it is also one of the most rewarding professions to aspire to. Children are a blank slate. There is an inherent balance of power and responsibility with the position but a lot of opportunities to (get this) have some fun with it too. Kids say ridiculously funny stuff and can be very open-minded once give the chance to have someone listen. Keep an open-mind yourself and you’ll see a whole new world of possibilities open up before your eyes.
Naturally, this doesn’t even cover the gamut of things that might keep you up til 4 AM the night before that first day of class. Remember to be confident in yourself and your ability as a teacher. It’s what you were trained for and what you know you can do. Go get ’em!