Anxiety is a basic human emotion consisting of fear and uncertainty that typically appears when an individual perceives an event as being a threat to the ego or self-esteem (Sarason, 1988). Everyone gets anxious sometime about one thing or another, how we deal with that anxiety is a different matter. Things are said or done incorrectly when someone is anxious. As teachers our first day or even the first week of school is very important. Here is when students have an opportunity to assess our style of teaching and our chemistry to see if it is a good fit. We the teachers are doing pretty much the same with the students.
Anxiety is relaxed or turned off when students are made to feel comfortable. When students feel that their interest is met and they are challenged. When they realize that the teacher is also human. An educator one asked the students on the first day of class “Are you nervous?” The response was “Yes”. He replied, “So am I”. Everyone had a good laugh and the tension was broken. Once students know that you feel as they feel and that you have their best interest, there will be flow.
Knowing our students and subject matter are key to anxiety reduction. We must be able to see the blank or confused looks and adjust our lesson to meet the students need. When we are prepared and are familiar with our subject we can begin to differentiate at that time to alleviate anxiety for those who seem to be lost or bored. Anxiety is reduced when both students and teachers know what is to be expected. Student also knows that part of this process is testing. How we plan, teach and execute our assessment would also ease the tension of the students.
Most people would not be against a surprise birthday party. However, a surprise test is entirely a different issue. Students not only want to know that a test is coming, but what is on the test, what is the format of the test and how it will be graded. If the teacher has laid a good foundation by engaging the students, giving positive feedback and having some fun, then the anxiety level towards assessments becomes next to nil.
Most of us wrote our required lesson plans for the course and they were wonderful, excellent and I’m sure stimulating. The practicality of the matter is that some students may not care, some students may not know how to start the assignment, some students may be low readers and just don’t understand. Our responsible is to encourage by building up their self-esteem and confidence. When a student knows that a teacher has confidence in them, the students go the extra mile to show that they are worthy of that praise. Anxiety – what’s that?
Look up, out, and beyond. Math helps answer big questions, not just mundane ones.
Let the spirit of inquiry be a comfortable and joyous one – not a chore!
It’s okay to let them struggle to find their own answers, their own way, in their own time. It’s important for children to feel comfortable with hard questions, and not to feel the need for fast answers.