Facing Teacher Fears

Want to hear a scary teaching story? I’ve got so many to choose from.

Some–like the time I forgot my formal teacher evaluation was scheduled for Halloween, dressed up anyway, and then had to sit across from my vice principal in my homemade “Ms. Frazzled” costume while discussing my professional accomplishments–are funny in the end.

Some–like the time one of my students was so stressed about his debate performance for class he forgot to eat, had a panic attack, and fainted–will forever be some of the worst days of my career.

All of them have taught me valuable lessons that I look for opportunities to share. We all have teacher fears, some more difficult and anxiety-inducing than others, and learning to face them is critical to our success in the classroom.

If the fear of not having all your materials ready to go in the morning is biting at you, change up your schedule so that you stay a bit longer after school, set up for class the next day, and give yourself the ability to breathe easier each morning.

If your fear of getting yelled at by a parent is keeping you from making parent phone calls, work on your script, practice with another teacher, or ask your admin to join you for the call.

If your fear is being disrespected yet again in your grade level PLC, find a team member or mentor you trust to confide in who can serve as your ally in that space.

If your fear is your students not learning anything all year, find a system for tracking progress to goals that will keep you and your students motivated. 

I don’t offer these solutions as quick or even easy fixes. It’s all easier said than done, but you don’t have to do it alone. Teachers don’t always talk about their fears–at least, not using the language that acknowledges the feeling.

We will complain about PLCs instead of saying “This space makes me uncomfortable and I’m afraid of having to enter it weekly”.

We will continually ignore student misbehavior and fixate on the fact that they should know better, instead of admitting we are afraid of teacher-student conflict.

When we push ourselves to admit these things and be vulnerable with those around us, however, we allow our support systems to do their job better. Other teachers and educators can share their experience and advice or you can find new partners in learning to seek out answers with you.

I remember a friend of mine sharing casually during a lunch break in the teachers lounge that she was afraid on one of her students going into labor in class and we learned from a veteran teacher at the school that it wouldn’t be a first and that he himself had the training to aid in emergency labor–he’d delivered three babies in his lifetime!

Talking about teacher fears large and small help us to build connection with those around us, better prepare for the uncertainties of this work, build up our resilience, and motivate newer less experienced teachers to trust the process. It is a practice that aligns with all of ATC’s values, allowing us to be vulnerable, take collective responsibility for each other, seek out learning and solutions, and become better teacher leaders in the long-term.

As we come together for workshops and All Corps Saturday over the next few weeks, I encourage you to share some teaching fears with one another and add some new tips and tricks for facing fears to your toolbag. In addition to all the other benefits mentioned, facing those fears will make for great stories in the end. 

Thanks for all you do,