Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Confessions of a Future English Teacher

I'm nervous. Notice I didn't say I was scared. I've learned to not say scared because fear creates anxiety. I'm more a mixture of excitement and jitters over the unknown when I think about the possibility of being an English teacher to a classroom of real students, real kids just like I was. I hope to teach high school. The more I read my educational textbooks for grad school, the more I realize that "good teaching," or rather "effective teaching," is a challenge. I applaud you if you are a teacher; it takes work, sweat, ingenuity, and determination. And, it takes knowing your material. I think that part makes me the most nervous. Here are my confessions of why I'm nervous (not afraid, because fear is not an emotion that cannot be resolved) of being a teacher:

1. I look like I'm 17. Will I look my students' age? Or worse, younger than my students??
2. How can I not look 17...where can I invest in a pair of comfortable heels? What kind of haircut says "professional" yet is still "me"?
3. My wardrobe is very unprofessional. Let me rephrase that: my wardrobe says "I belong to a young college student who has fun with what she wears and enjoys thrift shopping, and also hates the idea of institutional or office related work." I need to fix this...
4. I've been there, and I'm nervous to go back. I was in public high school. Kids are obnoxious, teachers are not much better. The maturity level of the teachers and students these days is depressing. Once again, I worry I will be the over-achieving, "non-experienced" prude I was in high school, but on the other side of the desk.
5. My family has been there: My mom and three of my aunts have taught in public school systems. I've seen the under-belly of the beast. It can be pretty grotesque.
6. MAJOR CONCERN: Though I love English, can write a mean essay, can analyze the snot out of a poem or novel, and can read a book for hours as pure pleasure, GRAMMAR MAKES ME NERVOUS. Grammar was never my thing. It's too much like math, in a way. I don't understand the rules, and I don't know how to explain WHY we have the rules. Help!
7. I am not relatable (apparently my word check doesn't think that's a word, ha). I grew up in a Christian home with an intact family, earned straight A's, was not a social butterfly, was clueless to most of the drama going on around me, and I wasn't very well-rounded.
8. I am an English snob. There! I said it. If you don't love books, if you don't care about proper spelling, if you don't cringe over how AWFUL your writing is, then I don't understand you. This is going to have to change if I am going to be a good teacher, quite obviously. But it will be hard.

But, on the flip side, these things could be positives.

1. Yes, I look young. But maybe that means that some of my students won't be afraid to approach me. After all, I'm only about ten years older than them and I haven't forgotten how hard being a moral and academic person was in school.
2. Maybe I should just be myself. And, having a new look, a "professional me" could be fun!
3. Shopping is fun. Time to go to the mall! (or Goodwill; they have clothes you could wear as a professional)
4. and 5. Yes, it's ugly at times. But why should I be afraid? I know who I am. I know who holds my future. I've grown from the frightened high schooler I was, and I hope that I can bring about positive change, if not in my entire school, then in individual lives I touch.
6. Well, I gotta learn sometime! Incentive to learn grammar, noted. :)
7. I forget that there are still kids like this in public schools. They need an encourager. They need someone to tell them they're not weird, and that opening up a little to others could be good :)
8. I need more Jesus. You cannot teach without a humble heart, and you certainly can't shove your love for a subject down a student's throat with THAT attitude.

Phew, challenge accepted, though it be daunting.

Preparing to face the world with Jesus, the ultimate Teacher,


  1. You will do great! You aren't the "usual" sort of a teacher, and THAT means you will be a good one. Your kids will understand you love them and want them to learn, not only the material for the day, but many other of life's important lessons. Go with God and with joy!! :)

  2. Thanks, Becka! Your comment was very encouraging :)

  3. I had many of the same concerns as you express here, and although some of them were present when I began my career, I have found that I treasure all of those memories (even the early ones) as a part of the growth experience. So, let's consider some of what you have to say:

    1. I had some of the same concern about looking young. As you grow older, you will be glad that you have always looked young for your age. I was approached by teachers (both when I student taught and when I first started teaching) who thought I was a student instead of a teacher. I think you are right that it makes you approachable, which is highly important to your students. I remember with fondness how young I was when I began. Even now, my students joke that I am smaller than they are. Don't worry about this at all! It does not cause a problem.
    2. Looking professional is a matter of clothing; however, it is also a matter of attitude. If you exude professionalism, your clothing is not as important. It is important to be approachable by your students, but it is also important to maintain a certain distance as well. (By the way, shopping is definitely fun! Enjoy it!)
    3. See my answer to number 2. You will be fine!
    4. I agree that there is ugliness in the public school system -- both on the part of the students and on the part of the teachers. On the other hand, I think this is present in most professions. We all need to work in our individual professions and take the good with the bad. There are many wonderful students and teachers there as well. Celebrate them and all that they have to offer to you!
    5. See my response to #4. Added to that -- be sure that you add a positive sense to your approach in the classroom, with your students, and with your colleagues. You'll be fine. Again, this is in any profession!
    6. You will definitely need to learn grammar in order to teach an English class. On the other hand, I found that when I had to teach and explain grammatical items, I ended up understanding them better myself. It is very logical and systematic in many ways. I am sure you will be fine in this area as well. Don't worry about this. You will be fine.
    7. You are right on this one as well. I was also very different from many of my students. The ones who are in the same type of situation will be encouraged by you and your successes. Those who are not as fortunate may see you as a great example. These students, more than anyone else, need to see that there are positive examples for them to follow in the world. They have seen so much ugliness in their own lives in many cases. The fact that life is not all bad is great for them to see. It might be a "light in the darkness" for them as well. Maybe that can help them to see that they are lacking something important in their lives -- God. (I have many who are in this position in my classes. That's for sure!)
    8. In reference to this area, you are also right that you can not shove your love for something down someone's throat. On the other hand, perhaps your own love for your subject matter and your approach will give your students a reason to change their attitude slightly. They may not learn to love books and literature as much as you do, but they may learn to appreciate it more. They may also decide that it is worth giving some of their time to after all. You never know.

    Most of all, you need to RELAX about it all. Don't stress. You have so much to offer and so much love for what you want to do. Be sure to share that with others, and you'll be fine!