The feeling never left me.
Many teachers think that teaching is unique in terms of the emotional demands it makes. I know of at least one profession that’s similar. It’s acting.
Recently I saw a wonderful performance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. For nearly four hours the actors transported our emotions and consciousness, created new understanding and knowledge – about ourselves and others – we did not know we could have.
That’s what good actors – as good teachers – do, every time they go on the stage.
How? Well, they start with good preparation.
They learn their lines and get to know ‘their stuff’ – intimately. They study – not just of the plot – but the subtext and the context. They understand the characters, not just what they say – but what drives and motivates them. They acquire the necessary skills, not just ‘technical’ – but emotional skills to engage and engineer response.
They do this night after night.
Actors know that with preparation, comes confidence. With confidence they can go on stage and invite their audience to be led out of the world of reality and in to a world of imagination.
Good teachers do the same – they lead us out of our ignorance, our complacency, our stasis and in to a different place where new knowledge and understanding reside.
This ‘journey’ is called education – from the Latin ducere ‘to lead out’.
Ask an actor if they have ever conquered their ‘first night nerves’ and few if any will tell you they have. And I suspect that they don’t want to either. Nerves fuel their purpose.
So however good actors become they know they still have to prepare well, with preparation comes confidence and with confidence comes performance.
But they don’t stop feeling nervous about it. And neither should you as a teacher – whether you’re an old hack, a newly qualified or complete beginner starting a training course.
So at the beginning of every term, steel yourself with renewed resolution:
be prepared, be confident, and yes be nervous… and still go on and perform.
As Ophelia said: “We know what we are, but not what we can be.”
Now is the time to find out. Go for it.
Alan Newland worked as a teacher and headteacher in London for over 20 years and then at the DfE and GTC. He now lectures on teaching and runs the award-winning social media network newteacherstalk. His new book “Working in Teaching” (Crimson Publishing) is published in February 2014.