You’ve trained to teach English online and have passed your initial teacher training course. You’ve worked with practice students and have gotten feedback from your trainers.
It’s time to strike out on your own and start teaching your own students. But an ingredient is still missing – teacher confidence.
While it’s normal to feel nervous as you give your first lessons, it’s crucial to develop confidence in your teaching abilities.
Some of that will come with experience, but you’ll also discover 7 methods for building teacher confidence in this post. So let’s get into it.
If you want to become a qualified online language teacher and earn a living from home, I recommend checking out CeOLT (Certificate of Online Language Teaching).
What Is Teacher Confidence And Why Is It Important?
Teacher confidence, as the name suggests, is all about how confident you feel in your teaching abilities. When you start out and lack experience and feedback, your confidence in your abilities may be low.
But it’s crucial to develop teacher confidence or teacher self-efficacy as research suggests here and here that it can have a positive impact on both learners’ motivation and achievement.
While time and experience will help you to become more confident, you can take steps even in the very beginning to boost your confidence.
By changing your thinking, getting support from others as well as building rapport with your students, you can build your confidence more quickly or at least stop undermining it so often.
1. Cut Yourself Some Slack
One way to undermine your teacher confidence is to think that you should be as good as other more experienced colleagues out of the gate.
If you’re just starting out then you may well lack teacher confidence. You won’t have the same skills as more experienced teachers. And all that is perfectly normal!
This kind of perfectionistic thinking undermines your confidence because it sets you up for failure!
More experienced colleagues were just as nervous as you when they started out. And they built up their teacher confidence over time, through trial and error and also by getting support.
You’ll also build your teacher confidence as you go. The more you try different activities or materials in the classroom, even if they fail, the more you’ll grow and develop.
So meet yourself where you are – you’re a beginner and you’re gaining experience. It’s normal not to be perfect after two months or even twenty years because perfection doesn’t exist.
Be curious and look for opportunities to improve while extending yourself self-compassion when things go wrong, as they inevitably will.
2. Don’t Reinvent The Wheel
One assumption that can undermine your confidence is thinking you have to reinvent the wheel.
But you don’t (and shouldn’t) have to spend hours planning each lesson from scratch to dazzle your learners.
It’s enough to use published materials like ESL books or materials you’ll find on ESL blogs. Or materials and ideas you’ll receive from your trainers on a course like CeOLT.
Over time, you’ll be able to make tweaks to these teaching materials so that they’re better adapted to the particular situation of your learners.
And gradually, as you work with existing materials, you’ll get ideas for how to make your own.
But don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself to create new material all the time as this can end up undermining your confidence.
My colleague, Maria Glazunova, used to spend hours creating beautiful PowerPoint slides for her classes. But all her efforts didn’t actually make the students any more motivated or interested.
When she switched to using a materials-light Dogme approach, focusing on her students' needs rather than on creating materials, she started to get better results.
3. Plan And Prepare
Lesson planning may seem like a pain, especially if you’ve recently completed an initial teacher training course where you had to produce detailed lesson plans.
Lesson planning in the real-world doesn’t need to be quite so detailed. But giving some thought to your lessons beforehand can help build your teacher confidence.
While more experienced teachers generally have to plan less, just like you, they had to give more thought to planning in the beginning.
Here are some tips on how to plan your lessons:
- Take the time to think about your lesson aims, in other words, what is this lesson for? Working backwards from your aims can ensure you choose relevant activities and materials.
- Get yourself a decent grammar book so that you can look up grammatical concepts before you have to teach them. This is especially important if you’re a native speaker who hasn’t learned much about grammar in the past.
- Sometimes plans don’t go according to plan and you’ll end up with some spare time at the end of a lesson. In that case, you can use one of these ESL warm up activities to fill that time.
- Make your life easier and ensure your students use English outside of class by using one of these ESL homework ideas that integrates what learners do at home with what they do in class.
4. Connect With Your Learners
While you’re worrying about your teacher confidence issues – guess what, your students are also struggling with their own issues about using a new language confidently.
One of the best ways that you can support them (and become more self-assured in the process), is to connect with and support them.
This can be as simple as using one of these ESL icebreakers on the first day of class to learn their names and a little something about them.
Becoming interested in your students as fellow humans is a key element of building rapport with students.
When you’re interested in your learners, it also becomes easier to plan lessons as you can adapt your classes to their interests. This is especially important, and to a certain extent expected, when you teach online 1:1.
Seeing your learners as fellow humans trying to communicate in another language helps you develop more empathy with them.
An excellent way to develop teacher confidence is to build reflection time into your post-lesson routine.
Reflecting doesn’t mean berating yourself for every single tiny perceived mistake. Nor does it mean adding dramatically to your workload by spending hours journaling about each lesson.
It can be as simple as noting down three things that went well and three that went not so well after your lessons.
As time goes by, you can spend less time reflecting or reflect less formally – you may just make a quick mental note of what to do differently next time.
6. Connect With Other Teachers
Teaching can feel like a lonely, solitary job where it’s just you and your learners. This is especially true if you’re teaching ESL online and don’t have any “colleagues”.
But it’s important to get out of your teacher:student bubble and connect with other teachers like you. If you’re teaching online, you can find support in online groups such as ELT Professionals on LinkedIn or the Smart teacher’s Library.
Other teachers can be invaluable sources of support. As you talk to them, you’ll find out that they have the same struggles and doubts as you. This can temper any isolating feelings of being the only person on Earth to have these problems!
And of course, by connecting with other teachers, it'll be easier to implement my final piece of advice.
7. Get Feedback
Another way to build your teacher confidence is to get feedback. You may be berating yourself for details that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.
But you can’t know this until you ask for feedback from others. You can ask more experienced teachers to observe your lessons and give you feedback.
This feedback should include not only areas for improvement, but also aspects of teaching or classroom management that you’re already doing well.
You can also organize an observation swap with a colleague whose aim is not one-upmanship but to learn from each other.
A final way to get support from a colleague is to ask them to listen to you without judgment as you do a thought download of what happened in a lesson.
The goal is not for them to offer advice or or try to reassure you or fix things, but simply to listen actively.
7 Steps To Teacher Confidence
While teacher confidence is something you’ll develop over time, as you become a more experienced teacher, you can boost it from the very beginning.
As you give yourself space to be imperfect, and to learn and grow as you go, you also give your students permission to do the same. And this in turn builds their confidence.
As you connect with your colleagues, you’ll also be able to give them words of reassurance and support to become more confident.
So, don’t wait for perfection to decide that you’re a good enough language teacher – start supporting yourself and others today to become more confident.