Teachers mold the next generation, providing knowledge, values and skills to children who will one day inherit the earth. Such an important responsibility inevitably comes with anxiety and on stressful days, even the bravest instructors struggle to stay calm and focused. To keep teaching anxiety at bay, remember to:
Before each class, do some physical activity that loosens up your body and gets your blood flowing. Jump up and down, run around the classroom, do jumping jacks or shake all your limbs at once. This will release tension from your body, build up energy for class and distract you from fears about the coming lesson. The more often you let loose, the less of a problem anxiety will be on even the most stressful days.
Break Up Banality
Long lesson plans are a source of stress. They require you to do a lot of work at one time without interruption, and they risk boring your students, raising the risk that you won’t get through to them. Thus, whenever it is possible, break up your lectures and slides with games, videos, group projects, and other, more engaging content. This content will give you a break from continuous teaching, help keep students’ interested, and, as long as it relates to the lesson, complement what you are teaching.
Acquire Visual Aids
No matter what subject you teach, visual aids will help moderate anxiety during stressful lessons. Posters, PowerPoint presentations, models and other aids will focus your lesson, giving you a clear sense of what you need to do and say at any particular time. As a result, you will be less likely to lose your train of thought or leave out something important and can easily correct any of these mistakes if you do make them. You will thus feel less anxious about your memory and public speaking skills, confident that you are prepared for each lesson.
Deal With Disrespect
Rude or hostile students are a major source of anxiety for any teacher, and the longer they persist in their disrespect, the more it will harm your self-esteem. If a student says or does something to offend you, address it immediately. Make the student own up to what he or she did and don’t let up until you have a clear apology. This will send a message to the others that disrespectful behavior will not be tolerated. It will also help you feel more confident about your own ability to control the class and defend yourself.
Infer The Best Intentions
If a student is giving you a blank or ambiguous look, don’t assume that he or she is uninterested or hostile. Although student dissent is a real problem for all teachers, reading misbehavior into students’ reactions will only stress you out while unfairly punishing them. Assume the best intentions from your students and react negatively only to clear signs of disrespect.
Gauge Your Goals
Anxiety is often a result of the failure to see the big picture. If you forget what your main goals are as a teacher, you will easily become bogged down in the details of teaching, stressing over small failures even as you accomplish great things. Thus every few weeks, take some time to write down the major goals you have as a teacher. Focus on objectives with clearly measurable outcomes, such as “help students get into college” or “motivate students to improve their grades.” Then list ways you have contributed to these goals. Put this list somewhere visible in your classroom to remind you not to stress over minor problems.