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Stricken With Self-Doubt

It’s the first day of a new school year tomorrow and I’m suffering from my annual bout of self-doubt. I get very anxious before a school year starts. I worry about whether or not I will succeed at helping my students. I worry about whether my style of teaching will work on a new bunch of kids.

The week leading up to the start of the school year doesn’t help. It’s a week that is set aside for preparing the classroom. This involves displays, fancy name tags and innovative ways to use a small space to enhance learning. The female teachers I work with put a lot of emphasis on the look of their classrooms. Borders are replaced around noticeboards, name tags are put on everything (and I mean everything!) and the fear of death is reserved for the poor laminator who cops the brunt of all this activity.

When it comes to developing fun lessons, I am very comfortable. When it comes to decorating a classroom, I am completely out of my league! I have been getting comments ever since I started about the plainness of my classroom compared to the other teachers. My bosses have pointed out that my classroom looks far less inviting and colourful. This year I put up a beautiful piece of red material to cover my noticeboard, before being told that children don’t learn well in a room of red. Apparently the colour red has a negative effect on concentration and creativity. The comments certainly made me see red!

Then there’s the endless diatribe from those in charge about new responsibilities and expectations that all staff need to adhere to. These usually involve devoting a great deal of extra time. If there is something all teachers have in common, it is the absence of any extra time.

Handover isn’t much fun either. As the previous teacher reads each name from the class list, every child is presented as difficult to teach. There’s behavioural issues, Aspergers, ADHD, ADD, Oppositional disorder, social issues, anger management issues, language disorders etc. What is it with psychologists today? They have turned every personality type into a disorder. Why is every second child on a spectrum? What is this spectrum, and how did it get to be so big? In today’s age, the one kid who can’t manage to get on the spectrum of any modern psychological condition probably ends up feeling left out and abnormal.

All this makes me very uneasy. I get very frightened. I desperately don’t want to let my students down.

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6 Responses to “Stricken With Self-Doubt”

  1. Margaret Reyes Dempsey Says:

    If you didn’t have these feelings, I’d think you were abnormal. It just shows that you care about doing a good job, and you will. The day you walk into a classroom thinking you’ve got everything figured out is the day to start worrying. 🙂

    I watched the first episode of that video you posted yesterday about teaching boys. While I think it might be a bit over the top and difficult to implement completely, I agree with the basic ideas, and not just for boys. You can’t always split these things neatly between gender. Ultimately, I think school needs to be engaging, especially these days when kids are used to high levels of stimulation. For the few years that I taught, I’d hand out a questionnaire on the first day of class that asked about their favorite things (e.g., music, shows, characters, books, movies, sports, etc.) I then tried to bring those things into my lessons. I found it held their attention and they ended up learning and not even realizing it.

    Regarding the red noticeboard, have you ever thought about researching feng shui in the classroom. I just googled it and came up with this site. http://www.tabithamiller.com/learning/ I don’t know much about this topic, but it might jump-start your brain in this area. After all, it’s only fair that you stretch in your areas of weakness just as your students will have to do. 😉

    I’d wish you good luck in your new school year, but you won’t need it.

    • Michael G. Says:

      Thanks for the kind words and link. I followed the link and discovered that red inspires activity but also increases aggression.

      I agree that splitting between gender isn’t the way to go, but I still feel that a lack of engagement has severly effected both boys and girls. There is no doubt that he had more money for resources at his disposal than we do, but on the whole, his style can be implemented with success.

  2. John Tapscott Says:

    It seems to me that the self doubt that most of us teachers experience is not necessarily a bad thing. It keeps us from becoming the kind of person whop thinks they are the best thing since sliced bread. It keeps us humble.

    However, your comment about “those in charge” is very telling. It’s one thing to be humble. Teaching is an awesome task; one ought to be humble. The role of “those in charge” ought to be one of support and not one of criticism. A flashy, decorated classroom is often just that. It’s a show, more for the benefit of “those in charge” than it is for the students.

    A classroom ought to be decorated with tables charts, phonics charts, illustrations related to current learning projects. As the year progresses there will be examples of students’ work: paintings, drawings, posters, craft work, maps, projects and on and on. “Those in charge” have no right to undermine a teacher’s self confidence with their snide comments about knick-knackery around the walls.

    When I was a young teacher I became aware of a certain kind of teacher that my colleagues would refer to as a “show pony”. These are the ones who tend to end up as “those in charge” while the draught horses, the real teachers, got on with the job. As Margaret says, feelings of self doubt, indicate a passion to do the job properly and to include every student in the class. I used to make it a practice not to read a pupil record card until I got to know each student as well as I could to avoid activating a self fulfilling prophecy. I wanted to get to know my students for myself and not follow what somebody else said about them.

    I hope you will have a great year. I know you are there for the kids. That’s what it’s all about. “Those in charge” are often there only for themselves.

  3. makethea Says:

    You are not the only one with these feelings. I have the same feelings as a student starting school. I ponder in my mind with questions such as will I pass this class or have time to devote to studying, or will the teacher fail me, because he or she does not consider me “professional?” As student, I don’t have that much energy to deplete, in order, to keep up with behavioral policies and coursework.

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