Classroom stage fright

I teach at the local community college. But one day a year, at my department head’s behest, I teach three workshops of high school students at the college’s high school journalism symposium. This is my fourth year of teaching the workshop, and every year I kind of dread it.

I have to get up earlier than usual, I’m not used to dealing with high school students, and I never know what kinds of kids are going to be walking into my workshop. Plus, despite the fact that I’ve been standing in front of a class twice a week for the last few years, teaching gives me a wicked case of stage fright. Even if I’m teaching kids I’ve been working with for years.

So needless to say, the high school journalism symposium gives me palpitations. Every year, I’m awake all night before the event. I worry about everything. I’m not sure if what I say will be interesting to the students, I’m not sure if I’m going to make myself look like an idiot and I don’t know if I’m going to have a disciplinary problem on my hands.

But you know, it’s never as bad as I’m afraid it’s going to be.  I think I’ve only had two belligerent high schoolers in twice as many years. For the most part, they’re respectful, cooperative and fun. I’m almost always sad to see them leave at the end of my workshop.  They ask good questions. One of the best ones I heard today came from a student who has been on her high school newspaper a month. We were talking about interviews, and she asked me if I’m ever scared when I’m about to interview someone.

Yes, I told her. I’m always scared before an interview. Without exception. I get butterflies before I make a phone call. I have to take a deep breath before I go into someone’s office to ask them a few questions. I am always, always nervous. Because you never know what that interview might turn into.

It’s kind of like teaching, actually. And usually – like teaching – the interview goes way better than I thought it would.


2 thoughts on “Classroom stage fright

  1. I was a teachers assistant in college and “taught” a class. Yet when I was doing my final project speech I had the worst stage freight ever. Fine in front of 30 student, but scared in empty room with a webcam view of a table of 5 people.

    • It’s funny what ends up causing stage fright, isn’t it? I can read my creative work to a large crowd in a small room, but god help me if I’m in a large room. Or if there are people who really impress me in the crowd. I get this awful rushing noise in my ears and my hands shake.

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