Do you look forward to it? Or do you dread it? Or something in between?
Be honest with yourself, even if that’s hard. You can’t change anything until you look the problem (if there is one) squarely in the face.
A lot of people have some kind of anxiety about teaching.
It may be related to perfectionism.
It may be related to introversion and the amount of energy it takes to be in a room with that many people.
It may be lack of confidence in your own judgement about what’s needed and what’s good enough.
or something else
Your anxiety is completely understandable.
Stress is caused by uncertainty and perceived lack of control.
By and large you have not been trained to teach. You are an expert in your field. You may have some teaching experience. You may even have received some training in pedagogy or made that a priority for your own self study but a PhD trains you to do research.
Your lack of training in how to teach creates anxiety about teaching.
And let’s face it, you aren’t always teaching in your area of expertise. Going into a classroom as an “expert” when you feel like you have no clue causes a lot of stress.
The fact that your job security depends on good teaching evaluations just adds to that stress.
Are you trying to ease anxiety by doing more preparation?
This is not an uncommon strategy. However, it isn’t a very effective one.
In fact, it can lead to a vicious cycle in which you over-prepare, the students don’t get it, your anxiety increases, so you do more preparation …
To deal with the anxiety, address the anxiety. Spending more time on content can be a diversion. Preparation should help but it needs to be the right kind not necessarily more.
I have written a separate post to help you figure out how much teaching preparation is enough.
To deal with the anxiety, address the anxiety. If you have a sense of what is at the root of your anxiety (and it may be multiple things) you can find the right kind of support to help. Believe it or not, support is probably available in your institution.
Many universities now have a centre for teaching and learning or faculty development office. Those centres are staffed by people who can help you with your teaching process.
You probably also have access to counselling, either through the on-campus counselling centre or through an employee assistance program. Check your benefits.
Those units will have no formal connection to your department. No one on your tenure committee is going to know you went there. Not that it would harm your chances or anything, but if that is a concern, don’t worry.
You can also create your own support. You are not the only one who is anxious about teaching and having some difficulties.
Find a colleague who will be your learning partner. Your learning partner doesn’t have to be in the same discipline. In fact, having someone from a completely different discipline can be eye-opening.
- Learn about effective teaching methods together.
- Observe each other’s classes and provide constructive feedback.
- Act as sounding boards for each other when things aren’t going well.
- Celebrate together when things are going well.
Look after yourself
You have a lot to do but there are a finite number of hours in a day and cheating sleep to create more doesn’t work. It makes you less effective. (Trust me. There is lots of research on this.)
You need to make tough decisions. The planning classes in the Academic Writing Studio will help with this. (Yes, they will help you figure out the foundations of your teaching practice, too.)
You can do this.
Edited Sept 5, 2016. Links updated and additional related post added 13 August 2019.