By Dr. Brandon Juarez
Assistant Professor, College of Education
With Emily Fox and Lindsey Relerford
Students, College of Education; 2018-2019 KDP student officers
Fear is a powerful influence that often consumes teachers. For instance, fear of students, fear of not fully comprehending course content, fear of students’ parents and the fear of looking foolish in the presence of students can all effect the way teachers plan for instruction and ultimately lead students. The associate counselor and the student officers of the local Kappa Delta Pi chapter at GCU are currently reading “The Courage to Teach” by Parker Palmer. The author points to this incapacitating fear as being harmful to teachers. The illumination of this fear, facilitated by the author’s heed to be aware of the damaging effects, sparked a healthy conversation within our group. Ultimately, two critical dispositions regarding acknowledging the presence of fear and how to begin tackling the negative influence of fear emerged from the discussion.
The associate counselor, who serves the College of Education as an assistant professor, was alarmed by a recent impromptu survey that exposed the overwhelming majority of teacher candidates acknowledge being fearful of their future students; the KDP student-officers confirmed this finding. Thus, the presence of fear should not be taken lightly or considered a threat only to the peripheral population of teacher candidates. Rather, fear has the potential to overwhelm the vast majority of teacher candidates and current teachers alike. Consequently, acknowledging the presence of fear is the first step to leading to a happy and productive teaching career.
As Palmer points out in his book, successful teachers focus on their identity and integrity as a pathway to connecting their soul to the ability to teach. Through the juxtaposition of focusing on the inward growth of the individual as a way to identify the fear, as Palmer illuminates, teachers are more likely to not let fear take over or debilitate the ability to teach. Additionally, the connection between teaching to the hearts as well as to the minds of students is the start of releasing the fear from determining teachers’ actions. In other words, when the craft of teaching is removed from the individual who does the teaching, the profession becomes mute and void of passion and authenticity. Subsequently, teachers become fearful of the aforementioned aspects because the self is removed from the process. Thus, overcoming fear begins with doubling down on teaching students’ hearts as well as minds and allowing the fervor to teach and the calling God has placed on the teacher’s heart to lead the process.
From a teacher candidate’s perspective, fear can handicap the essence of fully embracing the profession before it begins. Fear can undermine the best of intentions and negatively impact how a teacher candidate learns and prepares to enter the classroom. The following sections were written by two of the college’s KDP student-officers regarding their take on acknowledging fear and how they are preparing to enter the profession without fear dictating their futures.
As I continue to explore my future career as a teacher, I have come to realize that fear plays a large role in how prepared I feel. During a recent practicum experience, I taught a 7th grade history class. Preparing for the lesson was a breeze; my mentor teacher had given me all the materials and background knowledge necessary for creating a collaborative and fun lesson. Despite my preparation, when the teaching day arrived I was engulfed with fearful thoughts. For instance, I feared that the students would not respect me since I was not their normal teacher, that they would not be engaged, they would not participate or that they would see through my wall of confidence I had built in an attempt to mask my fear. Despite the presence of these fears, the lesson went very well. I relied on a favorite verse: Psalm 56:3, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” As a Christian, I believe God will not give me more than I can handle. Remembering this verse helped me to overcome my fears.
As Palmer illuminated, fear will always be present. However, fear can be used as motivation! Joshua 1:9 declares, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not fear, do not be discouraged, for your Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” God is steadfast and will be there every step of the journey while you learn how to teach and succeed in the classroom. As I reflect, this verse is helpful when I begin to fear lacking authority in the classroom, unmotivated students and failure. The truth is that everyone will make mistakes, but learning from the mistakes should be the focus. Mistakes allow me to grow! Once mistakes are recognized as opportunities to grow, fear can be used as fuel. As the author of Joshua illuminates, God is with us always!
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