Stage Fright – Overcoming Teaching Nerves

All performers – and teachers when they stand in front of a class are performers – feel stage fright when they begin.

However, experienced performers (including teachers) channel that fright into performing energy. Fight your fears and the rewards will soon outweigh the anxiety and you’ll begin to relax enough to find the pleasure in teaching.

On this page you’ll find a selection of ideas which can help with stage fright (or performance anxiety as it’s sometimes known). Just go through the list and choose the ones which appeal to you. Experiment with different ideas and soon you will find that stepping up in front of a class is as relaxing as sitting down with a cup of tea to read your favorite novel in a summer garden.


Who knows why, but being in decent physical shape helps with nervousness. This means a good diet, not being overweight, not taking drugs or tranquillizers and so on.

  • You might be tempted the night before to have a couple of drinks but it will make things worse the next day so avoid it.
  • Coffee is a stimulant which will make you more nervous so avoid it. Tea is better and chamomile tea is even better than that.

Lesson Preparation

Often anxiety comes from concern that the material you are teaching isn’t good enough or the students might “catch you out.” It is here that preparation is the key. If you have a well prepared lesson along with a good lesson plan‎, nothing will go wrong!

  • Remember, the more preparation you do beforehand, the better the lesson will be. Take a look at those links above about lesson planning and preparation to make sure you have covered every eventuality.
  • Put a picture of your loved one, your pet, your grandmother or something which will make you smile in amongst your notes so when tomorrow you glance down in class you’ll “accidentally” find something to bring a smile to your face.

The Night Before

Of course you’ve already packed your bag and prepared everything, but then just before you go to sleep close your eyes and imagine the class listening attentively to you, laughing at your witty comments, and applauding you at the end of the lesson. Positive visualization really does help!

Oh, and remember to set the alarm clock in plenty of time!

On the Way to School

On the way to school, try a little distraction and listen to some music or read a poem or something light and enjoyable. Spend a few minutes not thinking about work!

Just Before Class

Remember that stage fright usually goes away once you are into the swing of things. The tricky moment is the time before you begin. These are a few ideas you can try before the students walk into your classroom.

  • Remember a happy time from your past; maybe think of a joke you heard which made you laugh or visualize the person you love. This is all about relaxation.
  • Go into the classroom and look around it before anyone comes in. Remember, this is YOUR domain so get the feel of it. Notice where everything is and make sure you can see how things work. This is especially true if you’re using any equipment in the lesson like OHPs or suchlike.
  • Make sure any handouts are piled up and ready for distribution on your desk (you don’t want to be fumbling around for the right pieces of paper in the middle of a lesson).
  • Sit at your desk and doodle or maybe take a brisk walk around the school – any sort of exercise can help relax the muscles which in turn will relax your mind.
  • Posters, flip charts, markers, chalk, and all the other extras you deem necessary for your class: have them ready in a container and at hand.
  • Say something to the empty classroom and get your voice ready for work.
  • Nip to the bathroom and check yourself over in the mirror.
  • Breathe deeply and evenly and slowly for a few minutes.
  • Try closing your eyes and counting backwards from 9 to 0 in a slow, measured pace. If you can, try this in a foreign language.

During the Lesson

  • If your legs are trembling, lean on a table, sit down, or shift your legs.
  • And if you think your knees might give out try hiding behind the desk until you have yourself under control or pace back and forth across your ‘stage’ addressing your class. They’ll never notice. They will be too busy following your eyes and voice.
  • If you find you have a dry mouth then yawning can help relax your throat; and of course a bottle of room-temperature water on the desk is fine (cold water from the fridge isn’t good for your speaking voice).
  • Use the podium: yes, you are bodily hiding behind it; yes, you are holding on to the sides for dear life. Your notes are close and there’s no rush to leave the security it offers. When you’re ready, advance.
  • Another tactic to cover up your nervousness is to plan an extremely physical activity as your introduction or ice-breaker‏‎ activity.

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Posted in How To Teach English.

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