Overcoming Teaching Anxiety

Authored by:
Hanna N.

Hanna N.

Nearing three months of  living in Madrid, I have come to recognize that I am developing into the person I have always wanted to be and this is many thanks to the realization that I indeed have the skills needed to teach in a classroom that I feared I might not have. It has been over a month since I wrote my last post and this is because I am now engulfed by a new wave of responsibility, experiences and tasks to take on during my time abroad.

I am never going to forget the confused look on the faces of many during my senior year of university when I told them I was going to be teaching secondary students in Madrid upon graduation. There was much excitement, but also an underlying tone of general concern written across some faces. I’m going to say it, I was terrified to begin teaching my first day. I am young, unexperienced in teaching kids the English language, and in all honesty, not the person with the toughest skin to take on high schoolers. While I have dreamed to teach for years, taking this leap was much more difficult in practice. Genuinely the thought of numerous classes of secondary students looking to me to teach them English (and soon to find out History…Geography…and Ethics…and Art) gave me serious anxiety. Was I prepared enough to do this with my studies? Did I have the emotional grit to get in front of a class every day? What if I disappointed my teachers or my coordinator or the literal entire Communidad de Madrid that is paying me to be here?

I am here to say now that the minute I walked into the unknown, I was greeted with nothing but kindness from my teachers, other staff, and to my surprise, most of the kids as well. I am in no way saying my task as an auxiliar is completely easy but the rewards are plentiful. There is no doubt I have been uncomfortable at times in front of the class and there are days where the kids just do not want to listen to me teach. Yes, there are times where kids might tease me or make a snarky remark in Spanish, however there are also times that my students also make me lists of their favorite songs, write me kind notes or just get extremely excited when they see me walk into class in the morning. In that regard, the good most definitely outweighs the minimal bad days. As winter rolls in, my contentment in my surroundings is heavily reliant on the days I spend at my school in Rivas-Vaciamadrid. A regular day in the life is Hanna now consists of a lot of children, a lot of questions (I don’t know why “island” has an “s” in it either) and just so many laughs. My Monday through Thursday is pretty heavy with an hour commute, 4-5 different lectures or subjects to prepare, and my private lessons in the evenings. This being said, I have a real responsibility to help others and live for the improvements of those around me. While this fact is gleaming and overwhelming, the idea that everything I do is not wholly self-indulgent anymore is newfound fulfilment. I wake up every morning destined to learn new things and speak to new people. Beginning new relationships is a vessel for enrichment and each day I am greeted with new faces and beginnings. Change in this regard is wonderful and it has led me to the conclusion that I am exactly where I am meant to be for the next ten months.

This is my ode to all of those who are unsure of their personal strength and skills to work as a teacher abroad. Everything is a learning process and you are guaranteed to mess up once (or twice.. or prepare a completely wrong lecture like I have before) however the first step towards being a great teacher is learning to stay positive, pick yourself back up when you feel discomfort, and understand that each and every day is part of the learning process. The skills I am learning in my placement are those that will carry with me for the rest of my life and I am so excited for what is to come. 

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