Techniques for Mastering Nerves?


Hello, sorry all for creating yet another thread, I seem to be demanding a lot of advice recently...and all about the same thing!
I start teaching tomorrow and whilst I'm feeling ok about the whole thing generally, I am worried about showing physically that I'm nervous in front of the students. In other words, when I'm nervous my hands tend to shake, my voice dries up, and its blatantly obvious that I'm terrified. Has anybody had a similar experience and managed to keep these things under control somehow? It might be that I just have to accept it and wait for it to pass but I'd be interested to hear if anyone has managed it.

Thanks a lot.


When I was nervous earlier this month to give a paper in a conference with 14 speakers, where everyone else was a scholar, and me the only student, my supervisor told me, before went up to speak... "perhaps half the people here are silly, half of them will be interested in anything that comes there way, some are emailing or doing their own stuff, and perhaps 3 will know what you are talking about. For their sake, be interesting, and be interested"


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My brother used to do lots of presentations (for much more important things than academia) and he always reminds me that most of the room has switched off within 2 mins apart from those really interested (students usually switch off after 20 mins). He also says if you can't be confident, then act confidently (sounds strange, but does work).

One interesting thing I read is that while a person may feel terrible nervous, your outer appearance only shows 1-10% of the nerves you are actually experiencing. On two occasions when I've been pooing myself about big presentations, I've got feedback that I was very confident (ah but I wasn't!).

Also, try slow breathing before you start, this will slow your heart down and thus lower the adrenaline.

For shaking hands, use a lectern or hold something (your hand can't shake if it's holding a book).


You'll be fine. It's a bit like doing a presentation, you're actually only nervous for your opening sentence or two then you settle into it. They'll probably be equally nervous of you. If your teaching is interactive (e.g. tutorial) try chatting to them (e.g. asking them how they are settling in etc), it will calm everybody's nerves. As someone else, showing that your boss actually breeds confidence. Finally, enjoy the buzz, I absolutely love teaching!


Hey there! I am in a very similar position to you and understand how you feel. I get so so nervous about teaching and presenting and am very envious of those people who just get up there and do it with no anxiety whatsoever! Last year I helped run seminars for 2nd year undergrads and there were two of us leading it with a group of about 20 students. By the end of the year I was a bit more confident but not comfortable with it by any means. This year I am supposed to be leading seminars with a group of around 60 3rd year students and just me. I am terrified, not just of the teaching, but of them realising how nervous I am and thinking that I am completely incapable or something. I'm not trying to get out of doing it because I know it's something that I have to make myself do and I hope that one day I will actually be able to enjoy teaching, but I did ask my supervisor for some support for these sessions because I was so nervous about being on my own (it's my supervisor's module I am teaching on). At first she thought it was the workload I was worried about and basically told me to get on with it, but when I (rather tearfully and shakily) explained what the issue was, she was very understanding and is going to arrange for there to be another teaching assistant there as well just in case. In case of what, I'm not sure, but it helps just knowing that I'm not on my own up there with them all! I guess we just have to put ourselves through it and eventually it will get easier, I'm sure! Let us know how you get on Keep-Calm! Best wishes, KB


The best thing you can do to calm nerves is to be prepared - which you probably are. I was terrified when I started teaching, but felt prepared - had exercises all timed to the minute, had done all the readings, anticipated any questions etc etc. I was most nervous about not knowing the answer to something, and looking foolish. And while there were a couple of qus I coudn't answer, this was fine, and I just got the students to follow up. As others have said, deep breaths, take in a bottle of water, and know what you're going to do with them. It gets easier!



I used to train new teachers who used to get very nervous - and I also get nervous myself at times!

Being nervous is OK - it means that you care. Everyone is at least slightly nervous.

I think one way of dealing with it is to remember that being nervous is probably part of who you are. You should see it as similar to your gender, ethnicity etc. Just as nobody should criticise you for being black/ white, fat/ thin, short/ tall etc., nobody should criticise you for being nervous.

Just be nervous - it's OK, as long as you are prepared and as long as you show positive regard for your students. Teaching isn't just about 'performance' - you can be a really good teacher and still be /look nervous. It's about what your students actually learn. Focus on that and not on yourself.


Thanks everybody for your kind replies.

I've got my first class in half an hour and remarkably am feeling OK. A little shaky, but nowhere near as bad as I thought I would be. I'll let you know what happens!


Good luck. Trust me, you'll come back buzzing afterwards!


Hello again,
Sorry for late update but I am pleased to report that my first class went very well :-) I was nervous for the first few minutes but I just set them off doing an exercise and it gave me a chance to relax into it. After that I felt fine and things generally went very smoothly. Anyone reading this thread who's nervous about teaching should take note. I am generally the least-confident person you could imagine, I'm 22 and I look about 15 but I made it through and nobody said I shouldn't be there!
Today I'm not feeling so good...I've had flu symptoms for the past couple of days; I feel drowsy and achey and have sore throat etc. I really didn't want to cancel my second ever class so I'm forcing myself to go in but I've really struggled to prepare stuff and am totally not ready- I only finished reading the play I'm teaching last night! :-( So today could be awful but I'm just going to explain I'm ill and try and get them to talk loads...


Hope you're feeling better. There is nothing worse than having to do something major when you are ill.

I'm glad to hear the first class went well (up) I'm really looking forward to teaching, although it'll be some time before I am let loose with a class, and I know i'll be a quivering wreck. I think it's the fear of looking like an idiot and I know from my undergraduate years that some students are not sympathetic.