A friend of mine insists she has no teacher fears. Her shirt says it all: "You can't scare me. I teach middle school." And she's been at it for a while.
But what about at the beginning of her career? Any fears then? "Oh yeah," she said. "Getting a job. Managing my classroom. Parents. College loans. That's what I worried about when I was thinking about teaching," she said. "But here I am, 10 years later."
Further Reading: How New Teachers Can Beat Imposter Syndrome
Today, as prospective teachers consider entering the field, some of their fears are the same as my friend's. Others are new. Today's fears are legitimate, but like earlier ones, they don't need to be barriers that keep you from joining the profession.
So, let's take a look at some current prospective teacher fears.
One common new teacher fear is whether a new teacher is prepared to handle a classroom. Even after years of study and student teaching, many prospective teachers are not completely confident they will be ready to do the job.
Good classroom management is an art and a science, and is "almost invisible," says Youki Terada, reporting in Edutopia on a recent study about student discipline. Disruptions are inevitable, she says, but new teachers often have a narrow definition of rules and discipline. Experienced teachers, on the other hand, see classroom management as complex and use a number of strategies to connect with kids to prevent disruptions before they arise.
But new teachers can quickly learn techniques to connect with kids. For example, one study published in the Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions showed that greeting students at the door as they enter improves student engagement and reduces class disruptions.
So, if you're thinking about teaching but worried about classroom management, you're not alone. That's why today many schools assign veteran teachers as mentors to new teachers to help them improve their management skills as they gain experience.
Some prospective teachers may worry that current teacher shortages will result in greater workloads when there are not enough teachers to cover all classes.
Frankly, this situation is highly unlikely. Typically, teachers' contracts specify how many classes or responsibility periods (like study hall) can be assigned to any teacher. You'll know what the expectations are before you sign your contract.
Also, a teacher shortage means you may have more success when you start applying for jobs. School administrators received dozens, even hundreds, of applications for teaching jobs 10 to 15 years ago, especially at the elementary level. The competition was stiff, and administrators often looked for teachers with classroom experience. Today, however, many schools will be faced with unfilled openings and will likely have to hire long-term substitutes, cancel courses, or offer courses online.
The market for new teachers at this point is favorable, and you may have more choices about what and where you teach.
One widespread teacher fear is low pay. And let's be honest, it's a legitimate concern.
But there are reasons to be optimistic that salaries will improve, especially given the current teacher shortages. As businesses experience a shortage of workers returning to work following the pandemic, they are finding it necessary to raise salaries to entice people back, according to The Washington Post.
Within the past few years, teachers in several states have staged walk-outs resulting in higher wages. The Washington Post also reported that three national surveys, conducted by The New York Times, NPR, and the Associated Press, found that most Americans believe educators aren't paid enough. In two of the surveys, half of Americans said they would pay higher taxes to raise educator salaries.
There have also been ongoing discussions among state and national leaders about how they could work together to raise teachers' salaries, according to the Brookings Institution. So the issue of improving teacher pay remains on the front burner.
Health and Safety Issues
The National Education Association (NEA) recommends that schools follow the safety recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as students and teachers return to school. Many school districts now mandate vaccinations or weekly testing for SARS-CoV-2 for adults and children who qualify for vaccinations. Some districts have even defied the anti-masking mandates of their governors by requiring masks for students and adults.
Again, because of the teacher shortage, new teachers may have more choices about where they decide to work. If you have concerns about health and safety protocols for teachers and students, find out about the district's policies before you sign a contract.
Over the past few years enrollment at brick-and-mortar colleges has declined, according to Forbes, while enrollment in online colleges has increased, says OnlineSchoolsReport. Prospective teachers, like many other new college students, may be less willing than before to take on student loan debt that may take years to pay off. And students who choose brick-and-mortar colleges may decide to spend the first two years at a local community or online college that can be more affordable than a four-year traditional school.
Taking on loan debt is not only a prospective teacher fear, but a fear for anyone considering college. So do your research and compare college programs that offer teaching degrees. See what they cost and what kind of aid is available.
Further Reading: Stretch Your Teacher Salary When the Bills Come Calling
Teacher Fears Are Real, but Not Unusual
Some teacher fears, like managing a class, are specific to teaching. Other fears, like loan debt or health and safety issues, are common to many people thinking about
starting a new career in any area. This isn't to invalidate those fears; they are both real and reasonable. But they don't need to be barriers to pursuing your career plan.
If teaching is what you really want to do, identify the issues you'll want to explore and address. Then, after a few years in the classroom, you too can wear the shirt that says, "You can't scare me. I'm a teacher."