It fascinates me where inspiration can come from. One minute you feel like you don’t know what to write about and BAM a big dose of inspo! Today’s comes from not one but two sources! The topic of solitude in my photography 101 blogging course and an article I read yesterday that I completely related too regarding my shyness and teaching.
The featured image of today’s post is a stage shot of the auditorium I had to give a lecture in the next day. All the seats on the lower level were going to be full the next day with several classes (in addition to mine) and their professors. This is a very intimidating scene for the shy person.
I stood up on that stage one morning before heading to my other job on campus and just stared out. It was complete solitude. I was trying to acclimate myself to the surroundings and calm myself down. This was approximately seven weeks into the semester. If I thought I was going to black out on the first day in front of 45 students how do you think I was feeling before the big lecture day?
I prepared weeks for this lecture. Stayed up all night the night before timing myself as I went through it so that I had enough material to get through the 50 minutes if no one participated. No one like crickets! Luckily that wasn’t the case and I had more than I needed. The students were very receptive and interacted with me that day… I repeat that day! Some days they just like to stare at you… or their phones!
I always believed that you had to have a certain personality to be a teacher and I never felt that I had it. However, I am also one to conquer my fears so walked into the classroom on the first day of the semester trying to pretend I was anyone but myself. It didn’t work but I got by pretty well.
So then yesterday a fellow historian friend of mine posted this article. I wish this was available for me to read before I taught.
The title resonated with me right away so I of course read it and cross analyzed myself with it… here you go for your enjoyment!
Many people, myself included, are both shy and introverted. Throw in an unhealthy dose of impostor syndrome—fear of being exposed as a fraud, which is rife among young academics—and a recipe for paralyzing anxiety might emerge. Realizing one’s potential as a teacher in these cases requires working with rather than against one’s natural tendencies.
Oh boy the anxiety attack I had the night before the first day of the semester was fun! Not to mention when the students began to fill the classroom.
Do you have stage fright at the thought of lecturing to 40 eager (or, worse, unengaged) undergraduates?
Yes! Eager students not so much… unengaged ones make me more nervous…
Do you have an easier time interacting with students one-on-one or in small groups than as a whole class?
Yes! This is part of why I loved the idea of becoming an academic librarian. I can still interact with students but on a smaller scale.
Shy people, on the other hand, might crave interaction with their students but suffer intense anxiety about how they will be judged.
Yes! Here are some thoughts that ran through my mind before I began my teaching endeavors.
What if they ask me a question that I don’t know the answer to?
What if I forget something?
What if they don’t participate and I can’t engage them?
How am I going to teach when I am being evaluated? That is a confirmation of being judged!
How on earth am I going to learn all their names!
Let me tell you most of these went unfounded and I didn’t need to worry so much but when you are doing something new nerves are always there!
…the shy and the introverted alike can embrace newer pedagogical philosophies that move away from the lecture and reconsider what it means to teach. We don’t have to equate teaching with standing in front of people and talking. Our profession, fortunately, allows us a great deal of flexibility in choosing the best approaches to managing our own needs while playing to our strengths. Through practice, we can find those classroom activities that bring out our most effective and passionate sides while minimizing strategies that are less effective for us and consequently for our students.
This is great advice and the key word I think here is practice… the first time out of the gate might not be the smoothest and I should give myself a break on that. I had many ideas at the end of the semester to try but I never gave myself the chance.
Surprisingly, our anxieties can also come in handy. One of the unexpected benefits of my initial apprehension about teaching has been learning to empathize with and help students who are reluctant to participate in class discussion or who struggle with presentations.
I definitely did this. My students may have noticed my shyness… however… I used that to my advantage when it came time for them to participate. For example, we had to play two role playing games and everyone in the classroom had to research their characters and write speeches. Giving the speeches was a piece of their participation grade for the game. I convinced two of the students that did not do the speech in the first game to present the second time around. I spoke to them about my own fears of standing in front of people and talking…. A “if I can do it so can you” kind of thing! It worked and they got up and presented their speeches. That was my proud teaching moment of the semester… that and my students coming up to me at the end of the big lecture telling me I did a great job.
So why do I feel I can’t do the teaching thing?
I think the major part of my problem was that I went into the semester not fully believing in myself. I kind of set myself up to believe I couldn’t do it and therefore didn’t perform as well as I know I can. I figured that was it I should move past it and I haven’t taught since but I am beginning to second guess that decision.
Why am I second guessing myself you ask?
Well once upon a time I also believed that I couldn’t write a thesis. This held back my decision to go back for an MA degree. I began the program anyway and when it came time to write the paper I selected an adviser that I felt would be of the most help and in the field of History that I enjoyed. The result was I ended up with an A paper that was over a hundred pages long and a graduation award to boot! Moral of the story? I can do anything that at first I feel impossible but I allowed my excuses of my personality to prevent my star from shinning.