Nervousness is a natural reaction to new or challenging situations, but for teachers, it can sometimes be difficult to overcome. This nervousness can manifest in several ways, such as butterflies in the stomach, rapid heart rate, sweating, and more.
Anxiety for teachers is similar to performance stage fright. They are both surprisingly common reactions to situations that can result in fight or flight responses and they can both be overcome by preparing and staying positive. Social anxiety disorders affect teachers of all ages and experience levels so if you are a teacher who is struggling, it is important to know that you are not alone.
When someone is anxious or worried, these feelings can interfere with their ability to perform well. While some people seem naturally immune to nerves when teaching, for most people, it’s something that needs to be worked on. Let’s explore some common ways for teachers to feel more comfortable in the classroom.
Understand the root of your nerves
The first step in learning how to be less nervous when teaching is understanding why you get nervous in the first place. Once you know what triggers your nerves, you can begin to work on addressing those specific issues. For some people, nerves are caused by a fear of public speaking, while for others it may be a fear of not being good enough or of being judged.
Get organized and be prepared
One of the best ways to quell nerves is to be as prepared as possible. Make sure you have everything you need for your lesson, and then some. This way, if you do get nervous, you can focus on your students and not on scrambling to find a worksheet or worrying about what’s coming next.
Organize your materials and resources in a way that makes sense to you, and try to have a backup plan for everything. For example, if you’re worried about losing your place, have a few key points highlighted in your notes or create a PowerPoint presentation or Google Slides to keep you on track.
Know your students
Another way to ease nerves is by getting to know your students. If you can connect with them on a personal level, it will be easier to engage them in learning. Talk to them about their interests outside of school, get to know their names, and let them get to know you as a person too. This will help build rapport and make the classroom feel like a safe place for everyone.
Ice breaker activities are a fantastic way to give everyone a chance to speak and will allow you to bond with your class. From high school-age children to kindergartners, forming a connection with your class is crucial. For instance, why not start the first day with a quick round of introductions? Or, get them to share something they did over the weekend in small groups as part of their morning work.
Practice speaking in front of an audience
Public speaking is a common fear. However, there are ways to overcome the anxiety that comes with talking to a crowd. Practicing your lesson or lecture ahead of time by performing in front of others is one way to become more comfortable with the material. You can try rehearsing your material in front of a mirror first and then to a family member, a friend, or even a colleague.
Before teaching, take a few moments to eliminate any possible distractions. If you’re worried about your phone ringing, put it on silent or use the “do not disturb” setting. It might also be worth putting away any materials that you do currently need, and asking students to put away any electronics they may have.
Mobile phones can contribute to teacher anxiety in many ways so this will help you to stay focused on teaching and reduce the amount of stress that is associated with speaking out loud. If a student’s phone does make a noise, don’t let this throw you off. Instead, calmly ask the student to put their phone somewhere safe on silent.
Set realistic expectations
One of the best ways to reduce anxiety is to set realistic expectations for yourself and your students. If you’re new to teaching, it’s important to understand that you won’t be perfect and that’s okay. Give yourself some grace and know that you’ll get better with time and experience.
It’s also important to understand that every student is different and will learn in their own way. Some students may require more attention than others, and that’s okay too. The key is to be flexible and adjust your teaching methods to meet the needs of each student.
Practice breathing exercises
When you feel nervous, it’s common to start breathing shallowly and quickly. This kind of breathing can make you feel more anxious. Instead, try to close your eyes and focus on taking deep, slow breaths. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. You might even want to count to four as you breathe in and out.
For people who experience social anxiety when teaching, taking a moment to breathe can make a big difference. Similarly, if you become fidgety when stressed, it might be a good idea to hold something to keep your hands busy while you talk. Or if you can stay seated, sitting on your hands might help you to focus.
Focus on positive self-talk
It’s easy to get caught up in negative self-talk when you’re feeling nervous about teaching. You might find yourself thinking things like, “I’m not good enough,” or “I’m going to screw this up.” But those kinds of thoughts will only make you feel more nervous and increase your chances of making a mistake. Instead, try to focus on positive self-talk.
Positive affirmations can help you stay focused on your strengths and remind you that you can do this. Repeat mantras such as “I am competent,” “I am capable,” or “I am confident” to yourself when you’re feeling nervous. These statements are a lot like a pep talk and will help you to feel more optimistic, which in turn will make you less nervous and can boost your mental health.
Another helpful way to calm your nerves before teaching is to visualize yourself being successful. Picture yourself walking into the classroom, leading a great lesson, and engaging your students. Visualizing yourself as a confident and successful teacher will help you to feel more confident and less nervous when it comes time to teach.
Teaching students can be incredibly nerve-wracking
Most people feel nervous when they have to teach a class, but with the right preparation and mindset, you can overcome those nerves. In this article, we’ve provided some tips on how to reduce your anxiety and be more confident in front of your students. Follow these guidelines, and you’ll find that your teaching experience is more enjoyable for you and your students.