Ways to Increase Confidence in Early Career Teachers
Teachers are experts, tutors, mentors, superiors, masters, organizers, models, etc. that “rule”, lead or guide students in their learning. They bear the important responsibility of leading the learning of their students towards success (meeting goals). They have a position that requires constant attention and responsibility, usually towards a group and they always need to adapt themselves to the classes and cultural differences. In the many roles and responsibilities that teachers may face, how can they not be nervous about the multiple approaches they could take and the multitude of problems that could appear in their future classes? Especially new teachers, how can they increase their confidence in the classroom? This short essay will provide an answer to this question. The text will be divided into two sections (two main ideas): first, they need preparation and planning and second, (which is linked to the first idea), they should gain experience through different types of training.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Joshua D. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
If teachers are nervous about their future classes, one of the surest ways to reduce stress and unease is to practice, plan and prepare before teaching. A new teacher might not know what to expect from a class and might think of situations that he/she feels uncomfortable in, preparing mentally and gathering information to face these situations is a very direct and easy way to gain confidence in the classroom. For example, a teacher will teach for the first time in Thailand in 2 weeks and feels nervous and feels like he/she will lack confidence in class. He/she decides to learn about Thailand culture differences (related to classes), the education system, the school itself that he/she will teach at, meets with staff before the position, learns about common problems in ESL classes in Thailand and how to deal with them, etc. This way of preparing in advance and gathering information will reduce stress related to the experience (by learning about the unknown factors beforehand) and thus make the teacher gain more confidence.
Following with the preparation, another direct way is to draft a concrete plan that will set guidelines for the teacher and the class itself and give him/her a general direction and insight on timing, subjects, activities and what to expect in the classes (problems, lack of time, extra filler activities, possible learning problems, etc.). It is important to note that a plan should not be followed 100% thoroughly and should leave some kind of flexibility for the teacher, it should also not be too unstructured and too "free" unless the teacher has a lot of experience or knows what he/she is doing. Ultimately, any plan made will give direction and expectations and give confidence at what to expect and do in a class and can (and should) be adjusted while the teacher gains experience. Practicing is also important (like practicing for an oral presentation, which is technically a part of what the teacher does) as it will remove chances of possible missteps or mistakes during teaching, thus creating more confidence. Again, being too rigid with practice could be counter-intuitive, as classes usually may not be as the teacher expects it to be, but the teacher can also practice for things that might surprise him/her later, depending on the confidence and experience that he/she has.
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Getting more experience on practice
To connect with what I just said, gaining experience will ultimately build confidence. Effectively, the teacher learns more about different situations and efficient ways to teach and by gaining experience and learning constructively, can easily gain more confidence in his/her classes. Even (future) teachers have access to different ways or options to gain pertinent experience and it does not need to be directly on their first assigned class. For example, before becoming a teacher, this person could become an assistant language teacher or participate as a trainee or support teacher, which will give a bit of hands-on experience before being assigned a class and thus will progressively give more chances to build confidence beforehand by letting the teacher get comfortable with the flow and setting of a class. Another example could be to observe a series of classes, for example in a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course, teachers could be required to observe classes, which will also expose the teacher to the setting and flow of a classroom. Many more options vary greatly, and each has their advantages and can be included or not in courses or opportunities, but in the end, they will allow the (soon to be) teacher to gain more knowledge and experience about classrooms and this will surely raise their confidence levels for their future classes.
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To conclude, having confidence in a class has many controllable (e.g. experience, knowledge, preparations, etc.) and non-controllable factors (e.g. personality, skills, competencies, students and assigned classes, etc.) that will influence the level of confidence of the individual. If the teacher wants to raise his/her confidence level in a classroom, he should work and act on the controllable factors, as mentioned: prepare, plan, practice and gain relative experience. If he/she works on those, he/she will have a high chance of raising his/her confidence levels.
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