One of the sessions on the British Council's Classroom Language Teacher Programme deals with developing one's confidence as a language teacher.

Confidence is defined as a) Full trust; belief in the powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing; b) Trust; reliance; applied to one's own abilities, or fortune; belief in one's own competency; boldness; courage. [Webster's 1828 Dictionary].

It's clear that confidence plays an important role in a language teacher's performance, however becoming confident, especially when you're just starting your teaching career, is not a cinch. Three elements are generally considered relevant in increasing one's confidence as a language teacher:

a) Professionalism - a good knowledge of your subject. In other words, make sure you yourself know what you're teaching. Imagine a Maths teacher delivering a lesson on the four basic arithmetic operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) if he himself is not able to multiply properly. He won't be too confident when teaching his students;

b) Preparation - knowing what you are going to do and how you are going to do it. Knowing one's subject well is not enough. Being a native speaker of English doesn't guarantee that your lesson will be effective. Planning is the key word here. By considering your learners' needs and styles, teachers can develop strategies to help them engage with the target language and take it on board. These strategies will of course depend on the learners' ages, the resources available, etc. The point here is to anticipate problems and solutions, and give the teacher the opportunity to visualise what the lesson might look like in advance. A metaphor would be that of an actor preparing for a play and the key word would be rehearsal;

c) Practice - practice makes perfect. Obviously the more you do something, the better you get at it (and the more confident you become). However, practice without reflection is not very useful. Some teachers claim having ten years' experience, when in fact they only have one year repeated ten times. The point is that if you teach your lesson without regularly evaluating its strengths and weaknesses and seeking to improve your teaching skills, you will not make headway as a teacher. Practice is indeed important, but reflective practive is vital.

Back in 2003 there was a blog entry on the Teaching English website which invited advice for nervous teachers (still available here: http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/talk/questions/nervous-teachers). Considering that I'm currently working with a group of Brazilian trainees in a Classroom Language Teacher Programme in Natal (Brazil), I would like to invite new contributions on the matter. So, what practical things can language teachers do to develop their confidence?

 

Comments

 Lots of answers to this one I think, Fernando. A few things I think are important:Don't take yourself too seriously. Relax and understand that the students are not a group of people waiting to judge you, they are simply individuals who are just there to learn something. Learning is supposed to be fun.As you mentioned, prepare properly. The success of a class is directly proportional to how much prep you put in. There is no point complaining that the students just didn't 'get it' when you rocked up 5 minutes before class ready to 'wing it' - as so many incumbent teachers do. If you prep properly you can mitigate so many potential banana skins.Blank space in a lesson plan is still material - it is just unwritten material. Don't be daunted by a perceived shortage of activities and suddenly feel the need to pull a load of extra stuff off the internet. Confident teachers know that during class you have to develop students' responses, focus on errors and go down various avenues, all of which spin out the time a lot. 'Less is more' is very true when it comes to language learning and there are various techniques you can acquire to keep the onus on them rather than you.As you mentioned, hindsight is necessary for mastering many things. If you had a disaster, remember the next the time you teach that class it will never be so bad. Try not to be too quick to judge the quality of materials.  Subjective reactions against materials or students are rarely rational. What may not work for you, may work very well for others - you just need to see their approach.These principles I think can get you over the learning curve without too much pain. :)

 Good article Fernando! Congratulations!Some say the more you know the more you get confidence. How can a teacher teach without knowinng very well what is supposed to be taught? Of course, this doesn't mean that you can have a good real teaching practice. You can hold a great knowldge of a particular subject but, the way you present the new language could not be effective. That's why getting confidence demands you a great knowledge awith a real teaching practice. Teachers need to study hard avoid taking for granted the responsabilty of teaching properly and create a good teaching practice by reflecting, revising what is being doing in the class, searching for things to be improved over and over.    

I do agree with partync. It's very useful for me.

Hi TEFL101,Many thanks for your well-articulated and insightful response.You've made so many excellent points it's hard to focus on just one. But let me pick just one for the sake of brevity: I really warmed up to the idea of "not taking oneself too seriously." Admitedly, being confident has much to do with how teachers see themselves and the learners. If teachers construe students as an audience of judges, it just makes the whole process so much scarier. However, if teachers get to train themselves to see students as partners "who are just there to learn something," the whole experience tends to become rather positive.Confidence doesn't come overnight. It's a continuous process of training oneself to see things in a different and, possibly, more positive light. :)Cheers,Fernando 

Hi Junior,Thanks for your comments.Being knowledgeable and confident doesn't necessary mean being effective in one's teaching practice. On the other hand, confidence plays an important role in the teaching practice of inspiring teachers.Cheers,Fernando 

Hi Partync and hana_pom,Many thanks for your feedback and encouragement.I'm glad to learn that you've found the article useful.Cheers,Fernando

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