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: 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?


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