Nervous Is Good

I’ve experienced some major changes over the last few weeks. After struggling for years to maintain a job because of some severe anxiety issues, I’ve found myself comfortable with the reality that I now have two jobs.

In addition to my paying gigs, I have started volunteering once a week as a literacy tutor for an adult student in my community. It’s very rewarding work and something I take seriously. So seriously, in fact, that just hours before my first session, I started showing signs of anxiety.

A good friend of mine, a Russian-born scientist and professor who’s lived in America for over ten years, sensed my nerves. Martin reminded me that anxiety can be an asset, especially for a teacher. Even after twenty-five years of lecturing, he got anxious before class. Ten or so minutes into his talk, he felt fine.

“Nervous is good. Teacher is no good without nervous.”

A desire to do well, to be an effective tutor—my anxiety was not weakness but strength. It would make me a better tutor because I cared so much about doing a good job.

My friend’s insight helped me navigate some rough emotional seas that day. Returning home from my first night of tutoring, I remembered how just a few years ago Martin was my student. For about a month, we studied English (his fourth or fifth language) and American history. In getting him to say and then write, “George Washington was the first president of the United States of America,” I was accomplishing no easy task.

When I learned Martin had passed his exam on his first attempt and was officially a US citizen, I was thrilled for him and proud of myself. Now I realize there’s no sense in letting a little anxiety prevent me from helping more students accomplish their goals.

2 thoughts on “Nervous Is Good

  1. Katie_Speak February 14, 2012 / 8:46 pm

    Congratulations! Anxiety only holds us back when we let it. I promise not to hold your becoming an English teacher against you. Ha! I think it’s wonderful, important work.


  2. Tom February 15, 2012 / 8:10 am

    A certain amount of anxiety in any task can be a good thing. If we are not anxious about our work then we become lax and make mistakes. To excel we need to care about what we are doing and that brings anxiety. The key is not to let the anxiety overwhelm us. A task easier said than done.


Comments are closed.