Before the Class

Teaching often happens in the middle of the day and can be wedged between meetings, reference shifts, and other commitments. Consider these steps to prepare to transition into the classroom before the class.

Allow yourself at least 20 minutes before the session to focus your energy on teaching. This might mean leaving a meeting early or asking someone to take over for you early on the reference desk. You owe it to yourself and your students to have time to transition from other activities.

Establish a pre-teaching ritual that helps you transition. This might be a final trip to the restroom, a psych-up speech that gives you confidence, listening to your own personal theme song, or a last review of your class notes.

Consider incorporating one or more of the following exercises for public speaking into your pre-teaching ritual. These strategies are designed to warm up your voice, relax your body and mind, and prepare you to step into a teaching role.


  • Shake out hands, arms, shoulders
  • Work/relax the jaw, shake out legs/feet
  • Fall over at the waist (rag doll) and slowly roll up to standing, one vertebrae at a time
  • Center yourself by imagining you have the weight of a bowling ball at your midsection
  • If you need to get some energy going, do some quick jumps in place or listen to your theme song.
  • Practice one aspect of your lesson plan while doing “bad ballet” or ridiculous choreography.


  • Diaphragmatic/abdominal (i.e. stomach) breathing is best for powerful speech.
  • Place hands on stomach or at bottom of rib cage. Fake a yawn. Feel stomach & ribs expand on inhale and that is what breathing from the diaphragm feels like.
  • Imagine a color when you breathe in and another for your exhale, representing your stress. Let your tension run out with your breath.
  • Take a deep breath (all the way to your feet) and exhale slowly, controlling the exhale with your stomach muscles
  • Take short, strong, piston-like breaths in and out your nose as a way to energize your breath.


  • Stretch & relax facial muscles
  • Say the letters ‘p’ and ‘b’ followed up with sounds that are more throat-y, such as ‘n’ and ‘ng’ to get familiar with how your own voice sounds
  • Work jaw (say moo-WAH)
  • Work tongue (la-la-la)
  • Work lips (buzz! buzz!)
  • Try a tongue-twister, increasing the speed each time. You will need to concentrate!
    • Example:
      Grip Top Sock --
      Give me the gift of the grip top sock.
      A drip drape, ship shape, tip top sock.
      Not your spin slick, slap stick, slip slop stock;
      But, a plastic elastic, grip top sock.

Presented by Carrie Donovan at the 2012-2013 University of Texas Libraries Teaching Colloquium and inspired by a 2008 workshop with Kathy Fletcher, Indiana University Kelley School of Business