You’ve completed your requirements and graduated from some faculty of education. You spent some time in a class as an “assistant” teacher, instructing students, who are not your own, under the watchful gaze of the “real” teacher who sat off in the corner. You’ve prepared lesson plans, units, and a collection of classroom management strategies that you are all too ready to try out when you step in the field for real. You are certified and ready to go. You are a new teacher. But, I know the truth. You are scared to death.
I know this to be true because four years ago, I was in your exact same position. I had jumped through all the necessary loops and after receiving that phone call from my future principal saying that I was hired, I had never been more excited. That excitement carried me to my school that summer. I met my principal and he gave me the lay of the land with the final destination being my classroom. When we finally reached there he said, “Here are your classroom keys, set it up how you want and I will see you on the first day of school.” With that statement, I entered the deep waters of teaching on my own and without a safety jacket. Honestly speaking, that excitement of realizing that I had finally earned myself a career vanquished and was replaced with a humbling fear.
This was no longer a test. When you get your first job as a teacher, it is the real thing. When September rolls around, you are for all purposes, own your own, responsible for the nurturing and educational guidance of young minds. The mark you leave seems indelible. It is a scary experience. But there is one thing that you will never have to worry about as a new teacher. And that is establishing yourself to your students as a “teacher”.
Our traditional educational system, despite its many shortcomings, has safeguarded many elements essential to teaching. The most important is that “a teacher is a teacher”. The nights leading up to my first day of school, I had “teacher dreams” of walking into my classroom and my students calling me “Matthew”. I thought I would have to scratch and claw my road to authority over them. But unbeknownst to me, was the systemic value that all students intrinsically hold for teachers.
Your identity will be formed as you grow into the profession. But lose no sleep over wondering if students will consider you a “real” teacher or not, because once you are in front of your own class, you are their real teacher. Negotiating over students about your authority as a teacher is the one thing you can thank the system for. Schooling has programmed students to respect (and unfortunately depend on) the adults in front of them to guide them. So for those brand new teachers who are worried about how they will be taken up in the classroom by their students, my advice: don’t worry, it will be automatic.
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