One of the main things I have been thinking about recently with teaching is confidence. As a new teacher, one of my largest struggles is battling the want to be “liked.” Stepping into the classroom for the first time as a teacher can almost be as bad as stepping into it as a new student. You just want the kids to like you. I have learned the hard way that being well liked does not equate to being respected. In the school setting, being respected is more important than being liked.
I am a natural people pleaser and so this truth has been very difficult for me to embody. I worry about hurting the students’ feelings and making sure they are enjoying school. This is could be an issue. Worrying about the students’ opinions of you means that you might not always be consistent. Yes, I’ve been learning that equal is not always fair and there can be exceptions to the rule in certain circumstances, but in general it is best to be consistent. If you set a rule about homework, it is up to you as the teacher to follow through with it not matter no what. I am someone easily swayed by tears but I keep constantly reminding myself about what is best for the students in the long run. Also, think about your own school experience- were your favorite teachers the ones that were pushovers? Or were yours the ones that were fair and had solid, strong rules?
My classroom management philosophy has evolved since my first day of student teaching. I began teaching then with the idea that we shouldn’t restrict students and they should feel free in the classroom and there shouldn’t be many rules. Attending school is a privilege not a prison sentence. For the most part, I am still for this, however, a couple of experiences have shaped my new philosophy. First, my mentor teacher informed me that for some students, a relaxed classroom can feel unsafe for certain students. They are not sure what the rules are and how they will be supported or if they will be supported by the teacher. This thought really stopped me. The last thing I wanted was for my classroom to be an unsafe environment. However, it completely made sense that a classroom without guidelines could be chaotic and confusing. Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that though students’ individual freedoms and voices need to be respected and acknowledged, first, guidelines must be established in order to create a safe environment for this freedom to occur.
My first teaching job after student teaching was as a long-term substitute in a middle school. This was a great learning experience for me. Especially because, as many new teachers do, I definitely made mistakes. As hard as it is to admit, I had one group of students that could definitely smell my fear and took advantage of it. Though there were productive days, I quickly realized that this group of students did not respect me. Which meant, that they also did not respect the subject I taught. This put them at a complete disadvantage and they did not even realize it. I still think back on that experience and cringe. I constantly hope and pray to always do better.
Teachers need confidence to be teachers. They need confidence in themselves. They are not perfect and not always right but they have to be confident in their abilities. Students and parents may try to de-rail them, oftentimes unintentionally, but a teacher must know herself or himself and not back down. In my opinion, these are the best teachers. The ones with confidence. Am I anywhere near that? Not yet, but I work and try everyday and everyday it gets better.