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The Confident Teacher – how to appear confident… even when you aren’t

confident-teacher

As a teacher, you’re often put into a situation where you’re way beyond your comfort zone… it happens from day one of your career when you find yourself in front of thirty kids who expect you to know what you’re talking about whilst you quietly quake in your boots.

Whether you’re anxious because you’re new to this, you’re teaching a topic you’re unsure of, or you’ve got to deal with THAT class, there are some tried and tested ways of appearing to ooze confidence… and the funny thing is that you’ll soon find that if you act confident, you’ll feel it. And the kids will have confidence in you too. So why not give it a go?

Be prepared – know what you’re getting yourself into

This isn’t always possible of course, but if you’ve got some prior warning then the thing that can make you appear more confident than anything else is taking the time to prepare. If you’ve had a chance to really think through the lesson ahead and to work through the potentially difficult situations that could arise and how you might deal with them, then you’re halfway there already. Never skimp on preparation time, especially if you’re anxious. But make sure you don’t write too prescriptive a plan, you need to write in flexibility, otherwise you might panic if you need to change things part way through.

Walk tall and confident

Think about your body posture… make sure that you’re standing straight, not slouching and holding yourself well. People who are scared or unsure tend to slouch or cower so walking tall will give you an air of confidence (though this is not advised if you’re 6 foot 8 and teaching infant school kids or they’ll be the ones cowering!).

Set out your ground rules from the word go

A common mistake is to think that the lesson starts once the kids are sat in their seats and paying attention. Wrong. For your class, the lesson begins the minute they clap eyes on you. So if they’re waiting outside your classroom start the lesson here. If you don’t make them stick to the ground rules from the get go, they’re unlikely to adhere to them in the classroom. Calmly and confidently demand the behaviour you expect of them before you even let them in the room. It sends a strong message that you expect respect. In return, treat your students with respect.

Project

This is a biggy. If you sound like a church mouse then the kids will walk all over you. Even if you’re not confident about what you’re saying, conveying confidence in the way you say it will help to carry your message across and ensure it is heard and acted upon. If you are a naturally quiet person, practice projecting your voice – you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes when you’re stood in front of a class.

Slow down and breathe!

We all get that feeling of rising panic occasionally and worry that we’re losing control. The best thing to do in this situation is to take a step back, slow down, take a few deep breaths and relax. You should have a copy of your lesson plan to hand which will act as a handy prop if your mind’s gone blank. Once you’re more relaxed, try to regain control of the lesson calmly and authoritatively.

Silence is a powerful tool

One of the most common ways that teacher confidence is eroded is by a class that simply refuses to listen. Don’t try shouting over them. It will quickly frustrate you and it won’t encourage your class to listen. Instead stand completely calmly and quietly (no matter how you’re feeling inside) and wait. Silence will come. It might not come right away, but it will come. If you’ve not tried it before you’ll be amazed by what a powerful tool silence is. And it commands instant respect.

Remain professional

It is easier to appear and feel confident when you have a strict teacher-pupil distance maintained. Don’t let students get you off topic and chatting about your weekend, etc. Breaking down the professional barrier will make it harder for you to command the respect of a difficult class.

Keep the focus

Stick to your plan and keep referring your students back to the task in hand.

Accentuate the good

A very positive way to boost your confidence is to pick out the positive behaviour or learning that is happening in your classroom. Be sure to comment on it and make the whole class aware of what is going right. It will increase your confidence that you’re doing a good job and make the whole class more motivated to work well. Where possible, always avoid rewarding negative behaviour with more of your attention than it deserves.

I hope these ideas are helpful. Please share your ideas for increasing confidence in the classroom.

  • Thank you for this post! I am a pre-service teacher and I worry about my confidence in the classroom. I will certainly be using these tips in my upcoming internships.

  • Very nice.
    To help in being prepared it’s a good idea to talk through things with colleagues.
    Also be ready with a stock response for racist, homophobic, disables remarks. Something like: “why do you say that?” or “what’s your evidence for saying that?” delivered calmly, helps buy you time and puts the onus on the speaker to justify their position. Be ready then to depart from your script to deal with the more important issue. Try not to ignore the contentious statement, because that’s akin to condoning it.

  • Certainly agree about the power of positive words. Children want your recognition, so look to provide children with moments of when their being successful and what attribute that shows about them, it builds their positive portfolio. Also, it develops your relationship, as children aren’t thinking that they only get recognised when they’ve done something wrong. These are some of the techniques we use at the Nurtured Heart Approach

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  • Jackie Schneider

    I agree that the lesson starts when the kids reach the doorway. I start a listening game as soon as first few kids hit the carpet.Establishes quiet & concentration straight away & later kids are keen to settle quickly. I don’t speak till everyone is settled quietly on carpet taking part in activity. Using body language & visual cues to class at the start of the lesson can be really effective & stops you starting lesson with unnecessary talk. Ask your music/drama teacher for listening/echo exercises. Will give you another handy tool to increase your own confidence!

    • that sounds like a really good idea – also making a bit of a game of it probably takes the sting out of things somewhat and makes the pupils more likely to cooperate?

  • Ideas_factory

    Also very important to be consistent.

    Consistent in praise & of sanction.

    Don’t allow any deviation of agreed rules.

    • I whole heartedly agree – consistency is a key word – especially (as you say) when dealing with behavioural incidents, whether positive, or negative.

  • Matt Potter

    Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something. You don’t have to know everything about the topic your teaching. Turn questions that make you panic into a learning experience. I.e.”that’s an excellent question, let’s look it up” or “that’s an excellent question, how would you find the answer” then either look it up or set it as a homework. If you feel you don’t have time to tackle the answer there and then, make a note of it and use it to start the next lesson. The students will respect you for saying the truth and for adapting to their learning needs.

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  • Luis Monge

    I loved it. Thank you so much.

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