Fear in the classroom


As we approach the season of ghosts, witches and things that go bump in the night, it’s occurred to me that it’s not the obvious that make us shiver. In fact, many people wouldn’t bat an eyelid at your own ultimate fears and some might find them downright laughable. So, to give you a chuckle (and me the jitters even typing them), here are my top three scariest things:

1.   wasps (evil in a black and yellow jumpsuit)

2.   rice pudding (can’t even look at it)

3.   mannequins (especially in a deserted shop)

Which, and I excluded Jack Nicholson in The Shining (aaargh!), goes to show that fear is a pretty irrational beast. Nuclear holocaust? Pah, unlikely. Death? It’s inevitable. Wasps? I’ll dive to the floor and weep.


Close to the top of the list when my job was to stand at the front of the classroom, rather than edit the lesson plans, was delivering a bad lesson. More specifically, my palms sweated at the thought of my students losing faith in me as their master of the English language.

Teaching can be a terrifying business as much as it is rewarding. The highs are unbeatable! You know those golden lessons: the students arrive full of enthusiasm and ON TIME, the mingling game that you were concerned wouldn’t quite work flows like a dream and the students are so engaged by the final discussion topic that they give a slight groan when the lesson draws to a close. I’ve experienced a clutch of these, and the swelling pride of achievement coupled with the overwhelming urge to punch the air can only be levelled with Andrés Iniesta scoring the winning goal for Spain in the 2010 World Cup Final. I’m sure he knows what I mean.

This made the bad days all the harder to live with. I feared the bored expressions, the drooping bodies and, worst of all, the rolling eyes that occasionally reared their ugly head in a handful of my lessons. To be fair it was usually when I taught pronunciation, which is no-one’s favourite way to spend their time, but I took it horribly personally. This would, in dark times, give way to recurring nightmares where I turned up for class thoroughly unprepared and was met by a kaleidoscopic collage of disappointed faces. And although I’d bounce back, the underlying terror never really left me until I’d swapped my teacher’s board pen for an editor’s red biro.

Fears in the classroom come in all shapes and sizes. For some of you (particularly new teachers and those teaching children or teenagers), the ability to manage an unruly class raises the most hairs. Those facing an impending observation can probably, if you strain your ears, hear the ticking time bomb of your career. And I’m sure there is more than a staffroom of you who cower under your desk at the prospect of taking on a class of absolute beginners. Thankfully, you’re not alone; which is why I’ve added some links to onestopenglish’s support section to prove it. So there. Be prepared rather than, well, scared.

So now we’ve successfully addressed your darkest demons, why not unleash our spine-tingling collection of Halloween-related resources on your students? It’s only fair.

Happy Halloween!


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