The first training I went to out of college was a Harry Wong presentation on the first days of school. Now look, I love me some Harry Wong. BUT that presentation cranked my pressure meter up a little higher than I want it.
Here's the thing: if you and I want to both enjoy the first days of school and perform our best on them, we've got to keep an eye on the internal pressure meter. Since the early 1900s, the consensus in psychology has been that human beings perform best in optimal pressure conditions — not too much pressure, not too little. This is most famously represented in the Yerkes-Dodson Curve.
So to be clear, I'm not babying you when I talk about teacher pressure. It's a big deal. Knowing how to manage it is one of the fundamental competencies beneath long, flourishing careers in education.
Let's look at three quick tricks to help with first day jitters.
Trick #1: Trivialize it.
It sounds kind of heretical to trivialize the first day of school, but there are times when it's called for. But don't take my written word for it; take this video.
Trick #2: Read six pages.
Recently I saw this cool story about the first six pages of my book, These 6 Things.
I'm sharing it because if it worked for Nora, it might work for you! And you don't even have to purchase the book to read these pages — the whole first chapter is right here (no annoying opt-in required).
Trick #3: Tell yourself you're excited.
“Silly Dave — that's not anxiety you're feeling. It's excitement!” This sounds like a pretty stupid thing to say, right? But here's the thing: it works a lot better than stuff like, “Now, Dave, just calm down.”
Why? Because nervousness and excitement are both states of high psychological arousal, it's easier to move between them than it is between, say, nervousness and calm. Calm, being a lower state of arousal, is just harder to access when you're worked up. But excitement? It's ready to rock when you're feeling the jitters.
Want to dig a little deeper on this one?
- Dan Pink has a sweet Pinkcast about this idea.
- Here's the study the idea come from: “Get Excited: Reappraising Pre-Performance Anxiety as Excitement” in Journal of Experimental Psychology.
- Here's a blog article where I taught this to a student of mine who was struggling with performance anxiety.
Got a trick of your own? Share it in comments!
C'mon, colleagues — let's make this post a treasure trove!
Cristin Patterson says
Oh my goodness! Yes!! The link is to a post I wrote in 2010 about this exact notion (from #5 on, especially), pertaining to music performance but relevant to all situations of high stress. Cheers! https://musiciantip.com/tips-to-make-recitals-positive-for-your-child