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15 Things Only Teachers Would Understand

15 Things Only Teachers Would Understand
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Summer has arrived, and for many this means just one thing: school is out! This also means that, at least theoretically, teachers can enjoy some much-deserved r and r, theoretically being the operative word here. For all of us who live the academic life and sometimes feel like no one really gets it, here are fifteen things only teachers can truly understand.

1. We appreciate what it feels like to work around the clock

Teaching isn’t a job. It’s a calling. While we live in a world in which technology has increasingly blurred the boundaries between the personal and the professional, educators have always lived like this. I say this both as the child of teachers and a teacher myself.

We spend hours a day in the classroom, but when the bell rings, the work doesn’t end. We have papers to grade, lessons to plan, conference calls to make, and, if you teach college, constant emails to answer. I’ve made a habit of establishing a cutoff policy and expressly tell my students that I don’t typically reply to emails after a certain hour. It’s never stopped me doing so anyway though, because I’d much rather a student contact me with a question than complete the assignment incorrectly. I know. I’m a pedagogical paragon of virtue. You can just canonize me now. Thanks.

2. We tend to boss people around

Some of us are just naturally bossy and have probably entered the teaching profession in part because the classroom provides a useful outlet for that. Others develop this skill over time. You can’t deliver instructions to an entire class of screaming hellions or organize 25 munchkins into a straight line without a commanding authority. We might like to draw up schedules for road trips or tell everyone what time to be at dinner, but admit it. Nobody would ever accomplish anything without someone else giving them marching orders.

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3. We have a compulsive need to take control

Since we spend so much time at the front of a room commanding attention (or, you know, pretending our students are listening to us), we have a really hard time stepping back and letting someone else take the reins, because everyone else, no matter how hard they try, is just too incompetent. Need someone to organize a church fundraiser? Get a teacher to assign everyone a job. Looking for someone to plan a friend’s surprise party? Get the teacher in the group to do it. If I’m being honest, we hate this, but if we don’t do it, no one else will, and we’ll always assign everyone something to do and make sure that they do it, or else.

4. We like to discipline other people’s children

You can take a teacher out of the classroom, but you can’t take the classroom out of a teacher. In addition to imparting wisdom, we get paid to baby-sit other people’s brats. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen kids running around the mall like hoodlums or cutting people in line at a theme park and thought: no control. Since we’ve developed a reflexive habit of repeating phrases like “no running” or “sit down, please,” we have to bite our tongues in public. Not my kid, not my problem. Moving on.

5. We constantly “shush” people

In any social or public situation that requires people to focus their attention on something or someone, count on a teacher to shut everyone up. Movie theaters, churches, public speaking events, you name it. Nothing drives me up a tree more than people talking when someone else has something important to say, particularly when they have safety information to communicate. Flight attendants don’t review safety instructions on an aircraft because they like to hear themselves talk. Just because you’re a jet-setter that doesn’t mean the person sitting next to you is. If you’ve heard it all before, please sit down, buckle your seatbelt, look out the window and daydream about what in-flight cocktail you’re going to order. Thank you.

6. We can reflexively slip into “lecture mode”

Lecture mode refers to the spontaneous mini-lectures we launch into whenever someone asks us a simple question. A friend recently called me while writing a personal statement for a grad school application to ask me about the correct use of a semicolon. Fifteen minutes later, she decided to set the draft aside and pour herself a scotch. I’m still sorry about that.

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As teachers, we’ve grown accustom to giving people detailed, sometimes lengthy, occasionally boring answers to questions. My parents have taken to pausing the TV whenever they watch BBC drama with me because when they have a question about anything pertaining to the period, they’re going to miss half the movie if they don’t pause it. I try. I really do, but I’m nothing if not enthusiastic about disseminating knowledge.

7. We don’t party on school nights

Sometimes we don’t even party on Friday nights. You will occasionally find me in my pajamas on a Friday night with a bottle of wine, my dog, and the TV remote. When we have to be up at 4 or 5:00AM and spend most of our day talking at people, quiet is more often than not the order of the evening. As one article comically points out, “we’re usually in bed by 8:00PM, so Netflix and Chipotle are a better bet than anything that requires pants.”

8. We drink too much coffee

Coffee is our life blood. If anyone ever invents a caffeine injection, teachers will make it an instant hit. Since our work follows us home, coffee is the only thing that stands between us and the fog that obscures our brains as a result of late nights and early mornings. (Well, there’s also wine, but we’re not talking about that here). We have coffee in the morning, coffee during planning hour, and probably a coffee mug on the desk that’s ostensibly for holding pencils but is really there in case we need an extra cup.

9. We are masters over our bladders

This skill is something of a teacher superpower. Finding the time to take a bathroom break can be challenging with a room full of minors that can’t be left unsupervised. This is essentially why teachers will look at you funny if you’re a doctor and you tell a teacher to “drink more water”. You try it when you’re lucky to squeeze in time for a bathroom break.

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10. We appreciate the value of comedy

I’ll never forget something a professor of mine once said in the first upper-division literature course I ever took in college—the thing that made me certain I wanted to go into teaching: “Teaching is a performing art.” He was right. Keeping your students engaged is all about the delivery, and as teachers we can appreciate the value of a good joke, or even a bad one. If our students are laughing at us instead of with us, at least they’re paying attention in some form.

Humor also works as a convenient memory trick or motivator. I’ve been known to tell my students that for every day a paper is late, I capture and hold a bunny rabbit hostage. I like to believe this works, though maybe the humor here has nothing to do with the joke and everything to do with my delusions about student responsibility.

11. We have an obsession with inspirational quotations

Like comedy, inspirational quotations are tiny morsels of easy-to-remember wisdom. We’ve all probably heard some form of the Napoleon Hill quotation, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” As teachers, we know that the key to success is the difference between potential and kinetic energy. A student can be the sharpest proverbial pencil in the box and get the lowest marks in the class if he doesn’t feel motivated, so we like to use bulletin boards and posters plastered with these reminders in quote form so that students can glance up at the walls as they work and reflect on how important it is to dedicate themselves to their work if they want to see tangible results.

12. We love “teacher movies”

At least, we love the one’s that get it right. “Mr. Holland’s Opus” is my personal favorite because it depicts, with moving authenticity, what it means to dedicate your life to sharing your passion with others and showing them how knowledge can enrich their minds and their lives. Speaking as someone who works in the Humanities, any form of storytelling that emphasizes the importance of art, literature, and music in the classroom gets two thumbs up from me. Sometimes teaching is a thankless job, and we appreciate it whenever anyone wants to tell our stories in a memorable and relatable way that champions the work we do.

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13. We’ve forgotten how to sleep in

Our bodies are always on school time, and there’s absolutely no point trying to reset them. I’ve reached a point in my life at which I feel like a sloth if I sleep past 7:30 on a Saturday. The payoff, of course, is that theoretically we get more accomplished, and considering that weekends will usually consist of grading papers between binges of Downton Abbey, getting an early start on Saturday is probably wise.

14. We love to ask people what they did on their summer vacations

Partially because it’s a convenient first-day-of-school icebreaker and partially because teaching is the only profession in which you go off the grid for two months and don’t see most of your colleagues, this is our go-to conversation starter. Summer might fly by while you’re having fun, but a lot can happen in two months, and sharing stories about our fun in the sun helps us to reconnect with one another on common ground.

15. We really hate hearing “Your job is awesome. You get summers off.”

I’d almost rather hear “the dog ate my homework.” The problem with this misconception is that not only do we make up for it during the weekends and late nights we spend grading papers, prepping lessons, and attending after-hours school functions, we also continue to work during the summer. There are course textbooks to order and sort through, curriculum standards to update, student schedules and seating charts to draw up, and, if you teach at the university level, your own research and writing to do. Quite a lot of us love the teaching profession, but it requires far more dedication than many people fully appreciate. If we were paid by the hour, no school would ever be able to afford us.

Featured photo credit: School Children via pixabay.com

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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