How will I ever learn it all?!
Subject Knowledge Acquisition
I recently saw a Tweet that inspired me to write this post. In it, a new Primary teacher described how overwhelmed they were with the prospect of acquiring the subject knowledge they needed to be able to teach properly. There was a big fear of not knowing the answers to questions. These fears are valid, and very relatable. I trained as a secondary teacher of German with French, and whilst I am a native speaker of German, I was never good at studying grammar, so it was a major challenge for me to teach it in the beginning, and still sometimes is. The good news is that you learn as you go. Once you’ve explained a concept a few times, it will click and come more naturally. Also: you can try different things. Students are usually quite skilled at figuring things out, if you give them the right tools. Why not split the class in half, and have them work on a rule, exercises and solutions for different concepts and then teach each other? This has worked wonders for me in the past, and teaches everyone different skills. As long as you double-check that they’ve got it right, and that they have written something solid in their books that they can fall back on, this is a fantastic way to get students engaged, learning, and feeling accomplished.
Now, generally speaking, don’t look at the big mountain that’s ahead of you, that would freak everyone out. You take it step by step and bit by bit. You approach things as you go. Do yourself a favour and look back at your achievements; make it specific: has there been an obstacle that you thought you could never overcome? Did you? You sometimes have to stop and acknowledge your achievements in order to be able to move on without suffocating and succumbing to the fear of not getting through things.
Another thing you need to remind yourself of is: you are not alone. Many others have done it, many others are doing it, many others are struggling, it’s not only you.
Also, put yourself in the following situation: you’re in your classroom and someone asks you a question you can’t answer. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen? Here are a few scenarios:
- You feed the question back to the class, maybe someone knows, and you can check whether it’s true.
- You admit to not knowing it. This will not only empower you, but also the students. It sends the message that it’s okay to not know everything and to admit to it. No one’s perfect!
- You make a competition out of it, and promise the first student who finds the right answer a merit.
Just be playful and creative. Thinking on your toes and being responsive and kind is more important than to get everything right. A sense of humour also always helps.
If you do freak out, these things do happen, take a deep breath. Remind yourself that freaking out will get you exactly nowhere and give yourself a minute to calm down and see things more objectively. If this is something that happens frequently, make sure to take care of your mental health (you should do that anyway, don’t let it come this far). There are some great complimentary apps, like Smiling Mind that you can also use in class with your students, I have also started a YouTube channel called ‘Stress-Less for Teachers’ that you can refer to when you need to wind down. Here’s a list of different things you can do to keep calm and carry on. Always remember to be kind to yourself. What would you say to a friend, or a student if they had the problem you are facing? Think about it.
Be well, and enjoy your day, and give yourself a little reward. You’ve got this.