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Home  > Article

What if They Won't Listen to Me?

By Experience

As students, we've all spent plenty of time in the classroom. But being on the "other side" of the desk is a whole different ball game.

In fact, new teachers are often very nervous returning to the classroom--this time as a teacher. Here are some of the more common concerns that many teachers have prior to starting out.

"I don't have any teacher-training and I don't have a degree in education. Who would want to hire me?"

For the most part, public schools hire certified teachers only. However, there are other ways to break into the field without your teaching certificate. Private schools often hire recent graduates with neither certification nor student teaching experience, and organized programs such as Teach for America offer ideal training opportunities to similar candidates. Many insiders also recommend substitute teaching as an excellent means of gaining experience and of making contacts. Subs who have already demonstrated their teaching abilities are often offered permanent opportunities even before certified--albeit inexperienced--candidates. In some cases, when there is shortage of qualified teachers available, a school or school district will hire college graduates who are willing to teach but lack the necessary credentials on "emergency status." Teachers hired under such conditions are given a specified amount of time within which to fulfill requirements.

"I am afraid my students won't listen to me. I'm teaching high school and am only five years older than most of my class. Some of them look older than I do!"

You may feel young and inexperienced, but kids naturally look up to their teachers. Remember, you determine their grades! Many new teachers agree that being young actually works to their advantage; they often feel that students identify with them more than with older teachers. Still, as one insider stated, "Although it's nice for your students to relate to you, you don't want them to think of you as a peer. In the end, you have to maintain control, and their respect is more important than your popularity." In addition, young teachers often have to deal with students developing crushes on them, although we're told that this is not a serious problem if the issue is handled with maturity and sensitivity.

"As a new teacher, I won't be respected by the other faculty or treated like an equal."

In general, new teachers discover just the opposite. Private boarding schools often have a predominately young staff, so new teachers in these environments immediately feel on equal footing with their fellow teachers. However, even at schools where most staff members are older, colleagues are receptive and encouraging towards new teachers. Not only do the more experienced faculty welcome the youth and energy that new teachers have to offer, but they also immediately want them to get involved in a dozen different activities and programs!

"I will have to follow a rigid, defined curriculumand won't have a chance to explore my own ideas and teaching style."

This situation is rare. While all schools do want their teachers to follow a predefined curriculum, most schools seek teachers who can demonstrate new and interesting approaches to presenting material, and generally encourage new employees to develop their own style of teaching. However, for some recent grads with little or no teaching experience, the more structured approach to teaching may be appealing because it means less preparation and less ambiguity. Regardless, everyone agreed that it is easy to determine a school's general teaching philosophy up front, so you can avoid applying to any environment that doesn't seem right for you.

"I won't know how to discipline my students."

Teachers report discipline to be less of an issue than they had initially anticipated. Establish who's in charge of the classroom from the get-go. Warn them of the consequences of misbehavior and follow through with the punishment when called for--never give your students reason to doubt your authority, and they'll respect you. Most schools have a standard protocol for handling discipline problems, which takes some of the pressure off the teacher. In most cases, serious or recurrent trouble is referred to the Assistant Principal or to whomever is in charge of handling these difficult situations. However, many teachers agreed that disciplining students is inherent of teaching and one of the least enjoyable aspects of the job.

"I thought teaching would get boring and repetitive after the first few weeks."

Teaching is a creative process and most of the new teachers we talked to were far too busy and excited to be bored. Although some of the more experienced teachers reported that there is an element of repetition in teaching (especially if you teach the same grade level or class for an several years), the experience is always different because your students are different. No two kids are alike, and this makes the teaching profession dynamic and challenging.

Many recent graduates are attracted to the teaching profession for its many rewards, including intellectual stimulation and the opportunity to work with kids. Don't let these myths keep you from enjoying a fast paced and rewarding job like teaching.

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