Growing up I hated the idea of standing in front of people and speaking. The moment adrenaline pumped through my system my normally shaky hands would vibrate out of control. In high school I learned that I couldn’t hold note cards in my hand as they would shake too much to be read.
Teaching sounds like an odd career choice for someone who was terrified in standing up and speaking. I was worried I might say something wrong. Insult someone accidentally. Invite laughter. As a kid I was weird and fat and not much has changed there.
I was a fine teacher my first three full years teaching, not fabulous, but few are at the start. But I wasn’t me. Once, years ago, teaching 7th grade students one of them tried to friend my on Facebook. Not recognizing the name as they used a nickname and generic picture I clicked through to see who the person was, on the top of their feed was a picture of me standing in front of the board with the words “The whale teaching” as the caption. It wasn’t even one of my difficult students. I never mentioned it, but had trouble looking at them in class the remaining couple of months that year.
During my first four years of teaching I moved from school to school due to budget cuts and declining enrollment. It was during my fourth year of teaching I started to really be me in front of my students. My fifth year teaching was the first time I got to teach the same subject and grade level twice, 9th grade Earth Science. And that was my year I decided I just didn’t care. If my fourth year was dipping my toe in the water, this was taking a full plunge. I didn’t care if my students thought I was weird, I just wanted my students to know that I loved science and I was there to support them however I could. It worked.
I was no longer afraid.
I have no grand advice for fear or magical cure for nerves other than for me it took a conscious decision. I made a leap into no worrying about being weird or silly in front of my students. And I realized that, that authentic enthusiasm worked. My students responded positively. I went to a new school and new grade level (8th) this year with that fear of judgement banished away…well most of the time. My hands still shake when I stand in front of the whole school presenting awards.
Letting go of the fear of being me was the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done. I am still weird. And yes, I am still fat. But, most importantly I am me.