As an English as a Second/Foreign language (ESL/EFL) teacher, you will often be put into situations where you have to operate beyond your comfort zone. The first of these might be leaving the school desk behind and stepping into the shoes of the class teacher and leader.
When you find yourself in front of a class full of curious students -and however scary it might be- it is important to feel and act confident.
After many years in teaching and observing teachers teach, and based on my personal experience, if there is one single variable that in and by itself is going to make it or break it in your class, it is definitely your attitude as a teacher, regardless of teaching skills and technical expertise in delivering your subject.
“Our attitude is the environment we carry with us during the day. It proclaims to the world what we think of ourselves and indicates the sort of person we have made up our minds to be” (Proctor, 2015:12)
Attitude is the composite of thoughts, feelings and actions/behaviors. The best way to do develop your confidence and the right attitude when going to class is by knowing yourself through developing self-reflection, self awareness or consciousness-raising.
These not only improve your well-being, but also, your overall effectiveness as a teacher.
There is an old aphorism that says “knowledge is power.” Indeed, it is-but it is also one of the most important ways to build your confidence and knowing yourself as a teacher.
This is because teaching is an art that inspires an action plan for how you intend your students to learn and grow.
So, how can we develop the right attitude for going to class and from which we can draw our confidence? Here are some questions that might guide us and that we need to constantly be asking ourselves:
What’s the quality of my thoughts today?
How do I feel? Positive/negative, optimistic/pessimistic
Have I left behind my personal issues at the door?
How focused am I?
How did I decide to show up? To dress up?
Have I researched my topic and prepared my lesson?
Am I performing at my best?
Have I made up my mind how am I going to leave the students better than I found them today?
What can I do to show my students that -at least for the duration of this class-, THEY are the most important people for me?
The best teacher is one who knows themselves completely through constant and consistent self-reflection and self-awareness.
Of course, it is also important for a teacher to have a good understanding of their subject and a good grasp of techniques. However, in order to teach effectively, a teacher should show up as the best versions of themselves and spare nothing to help students achieve the desired results.
This kind of attitude helps the teacher easily and speedily establish rapport with students and can realize significant results from your students.
To conclude, self-reflection and self-awareness need to be our tools to understand our strengths and challenges.
For instance, if a student annoys you, how are you are likely to react?
Another situation may be that you observe yourself repeating the same concept, but the students are not getting your idea, what do you do? What can you do to look at the same concept from a different perspective? What kind of help will you seek to improve on it?
When you assess yourself under these different situations, it will help you to know yourself better. Teachers who do so, will be much more productive as they see their level of confidence constantly increasing, and their performance in the classroom and beyond constantly improving.
Remember, teaching English as a second language is not always a bed of roses, sometimes you will fail in a way, but as Blake Lively affirms;
“The most beautiful thing you can wear is confidence.”
Check where you went wrong/ underperformed and build on that, little by little, you course correct and perfect your practice.
When you have confidence, you have a lot of fun, and when you have fun, it’s amazing what you can do. That is the attitude.
Proctor, B. (2015). The ABC s of Success. JPT/Penguin, NY.