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It might seem impossible for someone with a fear of public speaking to become a successful teacher who enjoys their career. Teachers are constantly required to present information to an audience and facilitate learning for groups of people. How can they do that if they feel anxious when speaking in public? As someone whose heart races every time she needs to present at a conference or in front of colleagues, I have plenty of experience dealing with this problem. I don’t get as anxious when I’m in the classroom, but that doesn’t mean the fear goes away entirely. Here are some approaches I take to deal with public speaking anxiety as a college instructor.
Dealing with Public Speaking Anxiety
Since the topic is public speaking, I thought I’d let a video do most of the talking in this blog post. Creating a YouTube channel about teaching tips and resources is actually one way I’m working on my own anxiety. Don’t have the time or interest in watching the video? Read the list below instead for a quick summary of my tips!
5 Tips for Teachers with Public Speaking Anxiety
- Create a bullet point list of the activities you have planned for each day of class. That way, you have a guide to fall back on if you freeze when arriving in front of the classroom or at any point during class. These lists are easy to write up, so they don’t need to be an extra burden on your time.
- For example, your list can include the following points: “announce homework” “remind students about assignment deadline on Friday” “go over PowerPoint lecture” “ask these five questions during the class discussion (then list out the questions).”
- Use your teaching journal for this approach. Here’s a post on other teaching journal benefits. If you want a digital journal, here are some digital bullet journal options.
- Use visuals to aid you during lectures. Don’t try to rely completely on memory to get you through a lecture, as you might get flustered and forget important points. I use PowerPoint or Google Slides to make my lecture visuals. I don’t read from the projector screen unless it’s a definition of a literary term. But, if I get anxious at any point of the lecture, I know I have the visual guide there to keep me going through the important points I want to make to my students.
- Include as many small group and whole class discussions as possible. Don’t design a lecture-based class if you don’t have to. Yes, some degree of lecturing will be necessary, but by including a lot of class discussions, you’re insuring you have large time blocks during class where your students are the ones doing most of the talking. Plus, discussion-based classes are much more engaging for students. Here are six class discussion activities you can try out for this tip. And here’s the shorter blog post version of this video.
- Wear an outfit or accessory that makes you feel confident in yourself. I dress pretty casually when teaching, but I also wear a ring that I touch and spin around when feeling anxious. It helps ground me and remind me to breath and just keep going. But, you can also dress more professionally as a way to make you feel more confident when standing in front of the classroom. Just make sure the outfit is comfortable, too. For example, I tend to get hot when anxious, so I rarely wear long sleeves when teaching, even during the winter.
- Work on being okay saying “I don’t know” to your students. The fearing of being “found out” as an “imposter” is a major element of academia. Getting a question from a student that you don’t know the answer to can increase this fear, and anticipating getting a question like this can increase a teacher’s public speaking anxiety. But, not knowing the answer doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It can show students that we are all always learning. It can be a way to show students how you research things you don’t know. It can demonstrate to students that they don’t have to always know everything either. Not knowing something is not the end of your teaching career.
I hope you take the time to watch the video above, as it offers more details on these five tips. If you’re someone struggling with public speaking anxiety while teaching, I hope these tips help. If you have any of your own tips to offer, please share them in the comments section below. And if you want more teaching-related advice, check out this round-up of my top teaching tips blog posts or this teaching tips playlist on my YouTube channel.
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