My Top Tip For First Lesson Nerves!

mirrorJudging by my email inbox, especially from teachers in Europe & the Americas,  it seems that quite a few of you are getting quite nervous as your first lessons approach this week.

First of all, no worries, that’s quite normal.

Embrace the fear as they say.

So just relax, chill, prepare and you’ll be fine.

An extra guarantee?

And if you want to add an extra guarantee of a great first lesson, take an extra 15 minutes to do what I do …..

Before each new lesson I practice it the night before in front of the mirror!


Even now when I teach something new.

It’s amazing what you pick up when you say – out loud! – what you plan on saying in class,  your gestures and body language, how you plan to greet them, explain the activities, praise or discipline them.

There are so many things that you see and go “Wooo… that’s not too good!”

Ninja Tip:  Veteran teachers, give it a try too, you’ll be amazed at what you see!  And I can guarantee that every single one of you (us!) was planning on speaking far too fast. 🙂 

But picking these mistakes up now means you’ve got that out of the way and your teaching goes to the next level.

And your nerves go down a level!

Yes, it’s crazy.

Yes, you look stupid doing it.

But if it makes your first impression even better, why not!

Here’s a quick excerpt from the TEDx speakers guide,  it works just the same for teachers…

Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! We can’t stress this enough. Rehearse until you’re
completely comfortable in front of other people: different groups of people, people you
love, people you fear, small groups, large groups, peers, people who aren’t experts in your
field. Listen to the criticisms and rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. If someone says you sound
“over-rehearsed,” this actually means you sound stilted and unnatural. Keep rehearsing,
and focus on talking like you’re speaking to just one person in a spontaneous one-way


And what to teach?

I’ve written up a little about first lesson ideas before and my number one starting activity, whether it’s for 100s of kindergarten kids,  crazy uni kids or teenagers or even the TEDx conference, is always to do the …..

TPR style Warm Up.

Whatever the age or level this sets the tone that you are different,  it sets your expectations that they are required to talk and participate,  it lets you quickly judge their English level and their shyness (i.e communication skills) level.

Plus of course it’s lots of fun and by adding in more words & phrases you can go right up to their English level, however high, low (or non-existent!)

From then on it’s up to you and the aims of your course.

If you’re doing Genki English – and why would you not be 🙂 – then just start working your way through the curriculum.

Ninja Tip: Practice at least the first 4 lessons just in case you have a really fast class.  You’ll need to do them anyway, so best to have them now just in case. 🙂

If you’re doing another course – booo! 🙂 – then make sure you’ve practiced everything in the mirror beforehand. (Or see where you can add Genki English to it.)

And if, like Alice who just wrote in, you don’t know what level the students will be at,  just prepare (and practice) several lessons of different levels of English beforehand then pick the one that seems the most suitable after you’ve done the warm ups.

Again it’s a bit of extra work, but you’ll have to do it sometime anyway so it’s better to get it out of the way before the full craziness of term starts.

Ninja Tip 2:  Don’t be too worried about class sizes.  If you have good materials and have practiced, then as long as you have 2 or more students in class it’s just the same up to around 150 students.    If you have one-on-one lessons you need to move out of them as soon as possible, but here’s what you can do in the meantime.


Still terrified?

And if you’re still totally terrified, check out this post about Disneyland & Fake it till you make it!

We all started in the same place.

We all started not having ever taught a single lesson.

And although my lessons look super polished now, that’s 23 years of teaching, and loooooooots  of mistakes, to get there.

So don’t worry,  chill, relax, have fun and enjoy the great work you’re doing!

Be genki,


Richard Graham

Hello, I'm Richard Graham. And when I was a kid I found school to be sooooo boring... So I transformed my way of teaching. I listened to what the kids were really wanting to say and taught it in ways they really wanted to learn. The results were magical. So I'm sharing it all with you now...

3 Responses to “My Top Tip For First Lesson Nerves!”

  1. Susan K

    Thank you, Richard, for that useful advice!

  2. Dacha

    Thank you Richard! That´s really helpful! I’m wondering in the videos there are mostly adults: are these teachers you’re training or your students? I really enjoyed the video with younger kids because this is who I work with but it was interesting to see the adults as well!
    Thank you

  3. Richard

    Hi Dacha,

    Some are my adult Success Education students, but most of the adults teachers in training workshops. It’s always easier to get the permission to film them! 🙂 There are also lots of videos of kids scattered through the site, and the great thing is that people are always sending in new ones. We’ve got some great ones coming up soon from Margit and Colin!

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