They say the most common fear for people is: “fear of public speaking”. Fear of the “unknown” is probably up near the top of many lists also.
As a substitute teacher without any experience or information as to what to expect, walking into a classroom facing 20-30 new faces can generate a bit of anxiety. When I decided to try substitute teaching after the layoff, I knew that I’d have to face both of these personal demons myself.
Curiously, my fear of public speaking is limited to the adult population while talking to kids comes easy. …One down, one to go.
In my previous professional career, I discovered a technique that worked to help overcome the “fear of the unknown”.
I’d gather as much information about what I was supposed to do, ask friends what they might know about the situation I was considering and then finally ask myself the following question: “What’s the worst thing that could possibly happen?”
If the answer didn’t involve death or major injury, financial bankruptcy, or losing the respect of family and friends, I felt good to go.
And so each time I accept an assignment in a new school or a class I haven’t had before, my answer to that question is: “I experience five classroom hours of total tortured chaos and then I go home.”
That I can live with!
Last Thursday was the start of a four day, 5th grade assignment where the teacher’s lesson plan gave me the following information:
On the whiteboard was a list of names that made up 1/3 of the entire class and was marked “Benched!!” For what reasons, I didn’t know why the benchees were to have no recess that day but my anxiety level was spiking just imagining what I was in for with these kids.
When they arrived that morning, I dispensed with my usual easy going classroom attitude and went for the “no nonsense” approach to gain the upper hand. I let them know what their teacher said and that I’d follow through on all threats she had listed for them. At recess time, I read the bench list and told them they’d better behave.
The usual offense that earns sitting on the bench during recess is missing homework or a missed deadline for class work. The idea is to have the kids complete the work on the bench while the other kids are at play.
After a short break in the teachers lounge, I went to find my “benched kids” only to discover four of them missing. I asked the others where they were and they told me they were out playing football.
I collected names of all who were there and considered what punishment to mete out.
Back in the classroom, I waited until all the kids were seated and then calmly walked over to the names listed on the whiteboard and put check marks next to the four names that skipped out on me.
The classroom was dead silent when I turned around and asked each checked kid why they didn’t report as required. One claimed he did but the others ratted him out by saying that I had collected names of everyone on the bench. A second kid with attitude claimed that his name shouldn’t have been on the list in the first place and so it didn’t apply to him. The other two just said that they didn’t think I’d check.
In addition to the usual homework, I assigned the bench skippers to write a letter of explanation (200 words minimum) for their teacher as to why they skipped their benching. I told them that an action like this was not helping to get back “FIELD DAY” for the rest of the class. I also told them that they still owed me a bench day on Friday.
Friday morning I received the following letters of explanation from three of them. The fourth kid is going to spend Monday on the bench again.
Guess which one is from Mr. Attitude