2. Being Nervous Is Natural
It’s OK – go ahead and be nervous. And, don’t be afraid to admit you are. If you’re a natural introvert or even if you just don’t have much experience speaking in public, the first time you step foot into a classroom can be positively terrifying. Unfortunately, some try to compensate for this by taking on a cold demeanor to try to appear “in control." This, in turn, distances you from your students and can make them leery of interacting or asking questions.
Another common mistake made by new graduate teaching assistants is to take the “ostrich approach." You know what I mean – we’ve all had professors like this. Instead of facing the class and looking out into their faces, these teachers focus on the board for the entire session – writing away while the class stares at their backs. If you can’t see the class, then they won’t be looking at you, right? You can just pretend they’re not there!
It doesn’t take long for the class to pick up on the fact that you’re pretending they’re not there, and that’s actually pretty offensive. After all, your job is supposed to be teaching them – not talking to the board. This approach will distance your students even more than the “cold" approach, causing them to quickly lose attention in both you and the material being discussed.
Instead, take a deep breath and look out into your class. It’s OK to admit to them that you’re new and a little nervous. In fact, since you’ll probably be teaching an entry-level class, many of your students will also be new to the university – it’s likely that many of them will also be both nervous and excited as well. In any case, it’s better for your students to think you’re nervous than to think you don’t care.
Also, remember this isn’t high school. All of your students will be adults, and they’ll appreciate your honesty. I know it’s hard to believe now, but after a few minutes, your nervousness will fade and then you can get down to the business of teaching.