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

Hi Fernando   Thank you for your kind reply on ‘time', as well as for generating this ongoing discussion on teacher confidence, and the very good points that have been mentioned.   I thought I would share a simple strategy which works for me, and perhaps works for some of you too.   I find that arriving a bit earlier for classes, even if it’s just 5 minutes, helps me feel a bit more confident and relaxed too; as I am able to greet students as they come in on a more individual and informal basis and interact with them on informal topics such as ‘their day/weekend/ school/ work / learning …’   I’ve also found that this little extra time before the lesson is good for building rapport, and warming up to the lesson ahead.   Thank you and all the best,   Lauren  

I really like all of these great ideas.
Besides all that's been said, and that I agree, for me one of the things that help is to try to have fun on the classes. Since I love what I do (and that´s probably one of the reasons that I enjoy it so much) I try to have fun teaching, so, while I'm having fun I don't have time to worry or to be nervous.
But I think one of the things that helps the most is to have a group of teachers/colleagues to share your questions, your problems and doubts. It feels really good to know that you are not alone, and that what happens to you happens to everybody! I have this wonderful group that whenever I am not sure about something or even if I need an idea for an exercise, I go to them. They always come up with great suggestions that make me feel very confident and excited to try on my classes. But if you don't have a group of colleagues, those discussion forums(like this TeachingEnglish) are a good help also, since there (here) we can share our questions and doubts and get great ideas.
Thanks all of you who take the time to contribute and help to make our teaching better!
Juliana Esquivel, Natal 

I think all teachers have to read it and make a reflection about our English classes, because it helps us to increase our self-esteem and keep searching and studying new methods aiming to give more opportunities to students of trusting in the teacher. So, In my opinion It's not enough to teach English Language, but  also teaching culture, society, amreican or english way of living. Our students need to know more than language, but values, people, cultural aspects. Thus, as you wrote, if teachers want to become more confident, we need more PROFESSIONALISM: recognise our role as an English teacher; we need PREPARATION: "I am not a native speaker, but I have studied it for ages, What will I teach?" We will teach what you have prepared for this class, and do not forget that teachers have to study and they cannot stop doing it! PRACTICE: it's time to work and evaluate yourself, evaluate your own lesson, evaluate the materials used, and, in the end, evaluate your feelings and your students too. Certainly, they will trust in you, because you show them what kind of English teacher you are!Congratulations, Fernando!Your article is an excellent tool for all teachers in general!God bless!"Whoever has the gift of serving should serve. Whoever has the gift of teaching should teach." (Romans 12: 7)  

These 3 elemenst is vital of course by updating yourself and applying all of them as one.

Hi Lauren,
Thank you for contributing such practical ideas to the conversation!
Arriving earlier for class and getting to chat naturally with students before the lesson officially starts certainly helps teachers (and learners) to feel much more relaxed and consequently more confident. I really see eye to eye with you when you mention the importance of building rapport with your students. When the students like the teacher and see that he/she cares about them as individuals, they become helpful partners (friends) - which, in the end, contributes to making the teacher more confident.
Thanks again for your insights!
Fernando

Hi Juliana,
Many thanks for taking the time to include your own great ideas!
You've made a very good point regarding the fun ingredient. I think it ties in well with what's been said previously, 'don't take yourself too seriously'. Enjoying what we do as language teachers is definitely a key to increasing our confidence. Also, working with a group of supportive colleagues helps a lot.
Cheers,
Fernando

Hello, Thiago.
Many thanks for your feedback and kind words.
I entirely agree when you mention the importance of continuously evaluating ourselves, ourlessons and even the materials used. That's a mark of true professionalism.
Cheers,
Fernando

Hi, RHN79
Thanks for commenting!
Good point: applying the three elements (professionalism, preparation and practice) as one should make teachers way more confident.
Cheers,
Fernando

Hi partync,Yes, I'm a teacher and also a freelance teacher trainer. I saw on your profile that you're from Thailand - is that correct?It would be great to hear from you on the teaching contexts in your country. I've looked you up on FB but wasn't sure the search result was correct. Could you please tell us what your first name is?Here's to lots of sharing!Cheers,Fernando

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