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