Every time I was too self-assure, I did something foolish. A good colleague of mine talked about sky-diving.
I felt a little bit like sky-diving last week. Careless summer days had come to a close and I had to take that leap again. Strangely enough I was far from feeling self-assure. One would expect that now, after all these years, after all the students. But instead my knees were weak and the haphazardly moving red laser dot on the board betrayed my trembling hands. I guess a certain amount of stress is healthy. I believe we should never let our guards down and walk into a classroom as if it were yet another casual encounter with some cool people, and then do something foolish as a consequence. But this year’s alarmingly high stress level still made me wonder whether this annually reappearing state of nervousness will ever stop.
This nervousness is the inevitable side-effect of the curious nature of being a teacher. The turnover of the students, the continuous flow, the eternal change would never let us get too comfortable. Each new year brings with it new challenges on so many levels. It is simply not enough to know that I did alright last year. Those “medals” don’t count any more. A new race has begun and I better prove myself again!
This year I have 51 new students. And I met them all last Friday, during three consecutive lessons. That’s a lot of new names and faces to take in and make some sense of. As our students come from quite different walks of life, their level of English varies significantly. There is no placement test to kick off the year, and anyway, the groups are the way they are. There would be no splitting up or rearranging classes according to their English level. This means that when I walk into a classroom at the beginning of the new term I have no way of knowing how good or poor all these young people in front of me are in English. They might be bilingual ( it has happened more than once). But they might just as well be complete beginners hearing my seemingly endless babble and having no idea what is being said.
For the above reason, the first lessons, the first weeks are extremely exciting and adventurous, but in equal measure, awfully nerve-wracking and stressful. Not only should names be remembered, rapport built and first steps towards creating good atmosphere taken. I need to figure out more or less where they are in their language journey and how to fit these incredibly different travellers on the same train.
This situation reoccurs at every fresh beginning. Yet after the long summer break, after the idle hours spent reading and dreaming and contemplating, the professional reality bites and leaves me in awe of what my students and I achieved together the previous year. Will I be up to it once again? How to live up to the challenge? Especially with someone new yawning on my desk and simply enjoying existence 😉
What about you? How do you feel at the beginning of a new term? How do you deal with stress? Do you have some tips to share?