Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #118
Get use to fear
Over the 18 years I’ve been teaching, it didn’t matter if it was during my first year (where there was a whole lot of fear . . . constantly. Just getting up in front of 25 sophomores every period terrified me) or the 18th (where the fear has shifted. I’m very comfortable in front of students, but I fear whether I’m working them hard enough so they are truly prepared for college and beyond), fear is a constant. In fact, as I write this it’s August 12th, and school is still three and a half weeks away, yet I had my first nightmare about teaching last night (my computer wouldn’t work and I couldn’t get any of my students to listen to me).
In a recent Entreleadership podcast, Darren Hardy (publishers of Success magazine) was featured. He discussed a friend of his who was a Mormon. As is custom for Mormons attending BYU, this man was preparing for his mission, where he would be sent four thousand miles from home to do mission work.
Before he embarked on his mission, though, the university elders did something brilliant. They sat the young man down and told him every negative and hurtful thing others would say about him, his religion, his work, and so on.
The man told Hardy that this was the best thing that they could have done to prepare him for the work that lay ahead. For once he arrived and was ridiculed and faced criticism, he was prepared. He knew what to expect. In fact, he was able to make a joke about all of the negative comments by laughing and saying, “You know. That’s exactly what the elders said you would say” or “That is precisely how they said you would react!”
What a great way to get this young man to habituate himself to the fear of criticism.
Now it didn’t make it any less hurtful necessarily, but at least he was prepared. The man told Hardy that had the elders never informed him of the insults he’d face, he’d have arrived, been insulted, and returned home in tears. Instead, he was prepared for the criticism and had time to develop a thick skin.
Looking back, I wish I would have been sat down by an education professor and told point blank that no sophomore in a general education English class would be fired up to read “The Cold Equations” or “The Bride Comes to Yellowsky.” Or that they’d care what my college GPA was or how well I scored on my papers. I wish they’d have told me how they’d hate being taught the way I had spent much of the past five years being educated at university. I wish someone would have told me that I cannot control anyone, no matter how much I yelled or how much work I piled on them as punishment for not behaving in class (I know. I was a horrible teacher my first year).
This year, I’m putting this practice of envisioning all the complaints from my students ahead of time, as I’m totally revamping how I teach College Comp. I know they’re going to complain about having SSR every period and having to track their pages read. I know they’re going to hesitate to share their drafts during the workshop/modeling phase of class. I know they’re going to whine about the quick writes they will have to do every day.
But I won’t be blindsided by them. In fact, I have dozens of responses already in place.