With September and the beginning of the school year rapidly approaching, we at the Teaching SIG blog wanted to dedicate a post to something we’ve all struggled with: teaching anxiety. Teaching anxiety can strike us in many different forms, but whether it hits you most in the hours or days before a class or when you’re in the middle of teaching, it’s that familiar feeling of fear and tension over having to get up in front of a class and present. Many of us, even the most seasoned teachers, have experienced teaching anxiety at some point in our careers, meaning that if you’re experiencing this, you’re not alone. Read on for the blog team’s tips & tricks for dealing with teaching anxiety in the classroom.
- Name it. There is power in recognizing and naming the anxiety when it crops up. Ask yourself a few questions: How does it feel in your body? Is it triggered by particular teaching situations? Is there anything you can do for yourself to make you feel better?
- Prepare. If your teaching anxiety is triggered by feeling like you’re unprepared, try to write out a list of all that you need to accomplish in the classroom, and create a lesson plan around it. For lesson plan inspiration, view any of our lesson plan series posts here.
- Breathe. Take a few moments before the class arrives to do some deep breathing to center yourself. Try to breathe out for longer than you breathe in.
- Embrace a little silence in the classroom. Waiting for someone to answer a prompt or a question can feel like forever, I know, but try giving it an extra moment or two.
- Add in “Easter eggs” to your presentation – a slide with a relevant meme, perhaps, or a photo of your pet used as an example for metadata entry. This can lighten the mood a bit in the classroom, while still being relevant to the lesson.
- Move during the class! Similar to breathing, physical movement can help defuse some of your stress.
- You may find some mindfulness exercises helpful, even just guided breathing meditations like those in apps such as Calm.
- Community of practice: speak with other teaching librarians, or with others you know who teach in some capacity! Almost all of them will have some experiences of anxiety to share, and knowing that your experience is very common can help reduce the feeling that it’s just your problem. They may also have other ideas or practices that help them in the classroom.
- Radical acceptance: sometimes a class session won’t feel great, and it’s okay if that happens. Even experienced, successful instructors have classes where for whatever reason things don’t come together, and sometimes those reasons are out of your hands (student mood, weather, external events, etc.) Allow yourself to have less than 100% perfect classes—and to be human. Some days, getting through it is enough.
- If possible, build activities in throughout the class period that take the spotlight off you for a while–things like group work and individual reflection. In addition to being good pedagogy, this can give you a chance to slightly relax and regroup.
- Building upon Eva’s last point, try a little ice-breaker! Take advantage of your library collections, find an item or more to use as a “hook.” An object-based learning approach could be fun and make a tie-in with your collection.
- If you are more of a visual communicator, don’t be shy with using visual aids to encourage students’ response. Some students may be anxious too, and like yourself, prefer communicating with images or visualization. Engage them with looking and start the conversation.
- Arrive to your class early. Getting situated in your (new) classroom (especially at the beginning of the school year or semester). Sometimes the unfamiliarity of the physical space may add to the stress you experience. Getting to know about your space and take control of your environment helps set you and your students set the stage of your and each other’s interactions.
- Be conversational. After all, we are human. Simple, kind and gentle words make everyone in the room feel easier.
What do you do to manage your teaching anxiety? Write your solutions and strategies in the comments below.