"But once I realized the problem was not you, but within me, I found inner peace. And was able to harness the flow of the universe." – Shifu, Kung Fu Panda 2
Okay, so maintaining the flow of your class isn't exactly equatable to harnessing the flow of the universe, but there is something to be said for finding an inner calm while you teach. Part of this involves booking your troubles at the door—if your mind is full of your procrastinated paper and your anger with your noisy upstairs neighbor, it is going to be harder to focus on conducting a productive class. Journaling about your concerns, talking to a friend, or taking a few minutes to just breath deeply before class are all good techniques to help you move into class with a clear mind. Of course, sometimes our inner peace dissolves in the middle of class—we get nervous, a student says something that distracts us, we make a mistake, etc., and suddenly we start to panic. The following tips can help you stave off the fear and/or regain your calm.
- Embrace your fear.Realizing that you feel nervous and making a conscious effort to move past it can be empowering and calming in itself.
- Be willing to laugh at yourself. Because admit it---sometimes we make pretty funny mistakes. Being willing to admit to those mistakes and poke fun at them can go a long way towards making you feel less embarrassed and more able to remain calm.
- Play Teacher. In Preparing to Teach, we talk about teaching as a performance. If you start to get nervous, try "acting" like a teacher. Putting on your teaching persona or thinking about your teaching role models and asking "what would my teacher do?" can help you assume this role.
- Give yourself a break. Sometimes all we need to regain our calm is a moment to ourselves. If you start getting nervous, try breaking the class up for group work, asking students to write a five minute response, calling on students to contribute to the discussion, or even just taking a moment to write on the board. These are all great methods of removing yourself from the center of attention so you can relax and regroup.
TA Testimony— "If I feel panicked I usually take a drink of water and think for a short bit."
TA Testimony—"When I'm flustered, I have my students write or discuss. While they're writing I can gather my thoughts."
- Occupy your hands. Standing in front of a class can be awkward, especially when you're not sure what to do with your hands. Hands with nothing to do can fidget, revealing our nerves, which often makes us feel even more nervous. Many TAs prevent this problem by holding a white board marker or a pen. Check out the video below to see how one TA uses this technique to dispel his nerves.