By Sithembiso Gugu Mbatha

Hopes and fears of a new teacher

Although I would like to talk about the hopes and fears of any new position in any profession, I have to be honest that this is mostly about me and what my hopes and fears are as a newly qualified and newly appointed teacher. My only hope at the moment is that there is some overlap and similarities in whatever you are starting, either as an accountant, lawyer, doctor or entrepreneur.

For this past week my brain has been all over the place, a little bit anxious about what the future is going to be about. I have been trying to prep, plan, imagine and rehearse almost all at the same time for multiple subjects, CRAZY! I still manage to get some sleep though, because that will always be important if I want to have a fully functional mind, able to work efficiently – good advice.

Here are my 3 hopes and 2 fears (positive must outweigh the negative) for my new position:

HOPE

My greatest hope is to touch lives and expose them to all that life has to offer, through mathematics and economics. I am driven by purpose and I feel that that is my purpose. There is a special feeling that comes with being able to wake up every morning and being given the opportunity to meet people and teach them something meaningful while impacting their lives, positively.

I think everyone has their own purpose to serve. Without it being quite explicit, it is usually linked to other people, family, customers/clients. Trying to help towards something in your life and theirs. We want to know that we left their lives in a better state than how it was when we arrived.

fear

One of my fears is completely messing up and making stupid mistakes. I do not fear that I am incompetent. However, I will always be learning something new and mistakes are inevitable. My fear is more about second/third-guessing my choices and then falling behind or making a mess of things making it difficult to recover.

A school curriculum almost assumes there is time for everything – Not True! It does not account for how a learner grasps concepts and the amount of admin that a teacher must still do behind the scenes. With all of that, one becomes tired and with fatigue, life becomes blurry and mistakes happen.

I am pretty sure that everyone in their respective positions would not want to be worn out by their job, which could cost you happiness and a deadline or two.

HOPE

I hope to create inspiring work and see flourishing results in the form of excitement to be in my classroom and willingness to contribute as well as physical reports (although a child’s intelligence cannot solely be on this, but it does determine a pass or fail) I want to see real passes and not condoned passes.

If I get a “great lesson” or a “well done” or an “I get it!!” – that will be all worth it. I am sure many people enjoy praise here and there. Yes, we should be praising ourselves but it touches the heart differently when it comes from someone else.

fear

I fear disrespect and having to be the strict and feared one. Only because I have no idea what it means for me to do that. People have told me in the past that I look serious, bossy, and mean and only later when they got to know me, it turned out that I was a nice and friendly person. I have no idea how I did that. I can tell you that I never really had to discipline anyone ( not counting student leadership in high school).

I cannot be liked by everyone, but I fear not being liked by anyone. It is a delicate balance having to be strict-but-approachable. Funny-but-serious. Or the motherly-but-not-too-friendly. Ms. M explains it perfectly, it is hilarious!

HOPE

Finally, my last hope is to have fun, grow and develop to be spectacular. The point is to not end up in an environment that diminishes you but rather one that empowers you.

It’s like when you go to an interview, of course you want the job, but in the same space you need to check if the job/environment is good for you and your personal goals – Applicable to all new starters!!

Anyways, new start here I come! And I am bringing the best of me!!!

Teacher means parent-adjacent

I probably abuse the word ‘adjacent’ way too much in my day-to-day life. A lot of the time I am just trying to be funny, but when you think about it, it really does make sense. Outside of family, teachers really do become like “deputy parents” in a child’s life. We, ourselves, even go as far as to say “my kids/children …” It is only natural when you spend up to 8 hours per day, 5 days a week, months, terms and years watching these individuals move from strength to strength, growing and developing and you being right there to pick them up when they fall.

Young, newly-qualified teachers, including myself, might not have reached that stage quite as yet, given our age, especially in my case where many of my senior learners are just a few years younger than me, it would be weird to say “my kids … “, but we do feel it in our hearts as the learners just keep pulling at our heart strings each and every day.

Being a teacher, parent-adjacent, is so wild in the sense that you are now in charge of ruining many individual lives at once. I’m joking, just something I heard on a series I watched recently. Seriously, it is an experience like no other. I understand the multiple hats that teachers and parents have to wear EVERY single day.

Truth be told, you don’t wear one hat at a time, you have to wear them all, whether or not they add to your outfit for the day. High expectations from the school, learners and parents who are most likely doing the exact same thing at home. Maybe that’s why teachers and parents sometimes don’t see eye to eye, differing parenting styles.

I can’t help but wonder whether this is too much of a high expectation for teachers. Thinking about schools where there are more than 40 learners in a classroom per 5 other classes that a teacher teaches every day. I do not think that is something that I would be able to survive. I am sure there are great teachers who can, but they would be so much better if they had a more manageable workload, and reduced class to teacher ratio.

As teachers, we cannot help but care so much. That is the real trap that could lead many to never getting out of a negative environment. Parenthood be like that, all in or nothing at all because ultimately your kids are your responsibility no matter how badly they push your buttons at times. They become your reason every day for doing what you do, trying to get them to reach for better.

Maybe now I’m giving off “big sister” vibes. Probably one day I’ll have the motherhood vibes, only time will tell.

Shocking news: I’ve made it through a whole term (quarter) of school!! I wonder what term 2 will bring. More marking and more stress.

Teaching is an emotional act

Whether it is week one or now week five, every week is emotionally and physically challenging. Over time one can learn to manage it better but WOW!! Everyday is something new, I walk into a class or welcome a class without a single clue on what energy I am going to get that day.

My learners have a way of surprising me every day. They are amazing people who can make my day or totally shake it up. Their energy or sometimes lack thereof has been the reason for the wild fluctuations of my own emotions. Every day, no matter how much planning I do, is just an impromptu performance with hope that the audience will enjoy or at least cooperate with me.

Teaching is an emotional act in the sense that on a daily basis I meet over 100 different personalities, and that includes colleagues. On a daily basis I need to exchange all those emotions, deal with the clashes and try not to take the negative ones personally. I don’t always get it right. I do not think I ever will because I am human and we do not always wake up on the right side of the bed, apparently.

Sometimes crying is a necessary thing to do just to let it go. Sometimes I just need someone to confide in or to rant to and let it out. And sometimes I just need a drink or five (jokes). In rare cases, all of the above and a good sleep afterwards.

I can’t say how I feel exactly, because it feels like everything and that can be overwhelming. I can say that at the end of the day, week or month, when I look back at all that has been achieved, it does come with a sense of fulfilment and joy when I realise that I can be the superhuman that I never thought I was but hopefully I will start believing more and more every time.

I have been told that “if you aren’t emotionally exhausted, you haven’t done your work!” – Prof. Jansen. It is finally making sense and I couldn’t agree more!

As teaching is an emotional act, it can easily consume you. Every teacher has to take caution to protect their heart and mental well-being. As the saying goes, you cannot pour from an empty cup. I have come to realise the importance of finding ways to refill and/or re-energise myself. As difficult as it may be, just stop thinking about work and focus on all other areas in life that may need care. Whenever I am stressed about an issue or problem, I step away from it and do something totally different so that when I return, I have a fresh mind and perspective. This does not always work, but then again there are no guarantees in life.

Anyways, I have some people to thank. So many of my teachers have been dealing with this for years and they flourish. This is no easy task, but it can be worth it. Shoutout to Teachers!

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