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The call to step into the role of teacher can be frightening. Even after your training, you might wonder if you know enough, if you’re ready, if you really have what it takes to be a good teacher. You start comparing yourself to other instructors and trainers, and wonder if you’ll be “that good.”
Role models and archetypes give you something to aspire to and yet, it’s hard not to constantly compare yourself to others. In fact, oftentimes you pin yourself up against limiting beliefs that have no basis in reality. But the greatest disservice you can do to yourself is to juxtapose your status as a new graduate with that of a seasoned educator.
The growth to seasoned educator is a process and the best thing you can do is to honor where you are at in your own journey. Here are a few key practices to actively engage in as you progress from newly certified graduate to the expert in your field.
The first and most important step in making the leap into the role of a teacher is to believe in yourself completely. Everybody has to start somewhere and it will serve you best to trust that you know more than those who you're teaching. When strapping on self-confidence, sometimes you have to fake it until you make it. It’s not always the easiest thing to do, but it's your best starting point.
One of the most effective ways to get really good at delivering content is to make it conversational. I discovered this by accident while I was studying for one of my teacher training programs in a local coffee shop. Day after day, I set up at the big community table so I could spread out my books, manuals, index cards, and highlighters. Folks began to ask what I was studying and, without planning my response, I would share with them what I was learning in a very organic, conversational way.
Another way to get comfortable talking about what you do is to engage with others in more social settings and get used to talking about what you do. When getting together with new friends or reconnecting with old friends and family, talk about what you’ve been up to. This is your golden opportunity to get conversational. It will help you get used to calling yourself a teacher, and vocalizing what that means to you.
Set yourself up for success by preparing the logistical aspects of what you need to facilitate your class, workshop, or retreat. Then you should practice, practice, practice. The more you practice, the easier it will be to articulate your content without the need for notes or visual aids. The better you are at speaking fluently about your content, the more confident you will become.
Video and audio record yourself, then go back and review it to see where you can make improvements. This can be a tough process but it's invaluable as it will directly mirror back the things you say and do that you weren’t previously aware of.
Nobody likes a know-it-all and, let's face it, nobody knows it all. Humility, when balanced with confidence, is paramount. It’s impossible to know everything about a given topic, so get used to being comfortable with not having all the answers. This is actually a high-level quality of any accomplished teacher. When you find yourself in doubt, own it and tell your students you will find the answer and get back to them, or point them in the direction of other educational resources. It’s much more admirable when a teacher openly expresses that they strive to approach all things from a student’s mind.
Feedback is essential for growth. Without it, you would never know how best to serve the very people you are in a position to help. Everyone learns differently and the ways in which you express yourself, or approach a system of teaching will inevitably need some refining here and there. Feedback, when received with an open heart and an open mind, can mean the difference between failure and success.
There will be times when people simply criticize you and project their own holdups onto you. This is, by far, the most challenging part of teaching. Stay centered with this advice from a wise teacher: “Don’t get overly inflated by the amazing reviews and pay zero attention to the cruel comments. Look at what is right in the middle and there is where you will find the gold.”
Many people are afraid to step out for the first time and that’s perfectly normal. Just remember that you’re never as close to the content as when you were studying and being tested in a learning environment. The student who is immersed in the conversation is the strongest teacher because they are well versed in the dialogue on a daily basis. The longer you wait to teach after completing your training, the farther away from the material you get and the less confident you become. Jump on in while the water is still warm.
The biggest mistake an educator can make is to stop learning. Continuing education is important for instructors at every level. Everything in creation is constantly evolving and in today’s world, some information becomes obsolete seemingly overnight. If you stop learning, you stop growing. Your teaching methods will become stale, and once that happens your students will pass you by. As a teacher you have the responsibility to apply both knowledge and experience in your daily life, and integrate the two until they become one. At the end of the day, you are, and always will be, a student and a teacher.
As you make the official transition to teacher, keep in mind the reasons why you chose this path—they will keep you connected to your passion. Have fun, be authentic, genuinely connect with people, and from there it will all unfold beautifully and according to plan.