Building Teachers Confidence in the Classroom Anyone who has ever had to stand up in


Anyone who has ever had to stand up in front of a group of people to give a speech knows it can be a daunting task. When we are nervous, our bodies conspire against us, leaving us with such physical symptoms as sweating and shaking, not to mention amnesia and a general feeling of dread. However, there are some tips you can follow to make public-speaking easier and to have it feel like second nature.

First, we'll look at ways to build self-confidence outside of the classroom. Then, we'll look at methods teachers of English as a second language (ESL) can use to build their confidence while teaching.

One of the easiest ways to overcome shyness is to feel good about yourself by repeating a personal mantra such as 'I feel terrific' into the mirror as you wake each day. (John Edmond; 6 Ways to Overcome Shyness and Gain Confidence; www.ESLteachersboard.com) Repeat it enough and you will start to believe it!

Another self-confidence booster is to always look your best. A professional appearance will make you feel better about yourself and make others give you respect. Self-confidence can be learned. By pretending we are confident, we give the appearance we are confident. The way we stand, walk and look at others can be modified to give the impression that we have all the confidence in the world. 'As you stand and walk, put your head up and your chest out. Bluff this if you have to.' (Bronwyn Ritchie; Use These Warm-up Strategies to Give You Confidence in Your Public Speaking; www.eslteachersboard.com) The author also advocates this simple and easy trick to boost your self-confidence'smile! This seemingly insignificant gesture ''sends endorphins through your body and a feeling of confidence-to the audience who can see you- and to your body.' (ibid)

Other tips to overcome shyness are offered by Stefan Chiarantano. (Tips and Suggestions on Public Speaking; www.usingenglish.com) He recommends such methods as rehearsing or practicing in front of a mirror; remembering to pace yourself when speaking; techniques to relax your breathing; and connecting with your audience by making eye contact and smiling.

Much of the previous advice on public-speaking can be incorporated into the classroom. As teachers, it can be challenging to have to be the facilitator or leader of the classroom while getting the teaching point across to pupils learning a new language and to get them speaking in this second language. However, we can use some of these tips to learn to feel more comfortable in front of our students.

The first thing we can do when teaching in a foreign country is to arm ourselves with knowledge. Get to know some of the geography or history of the country in which you are teaching so you will be familiar with place names, historical figures or political leaders. Learning about the culture is also important to avoid embarrassing 'faux pas'. Many Asian cultures have completely opposite ways of doing things than their Western counterparts. In addition, the perspectives of the students could be completely different than those of native English speakers. These differences can show up in seemingly insignificant ways. For example, in Thailand an 'orange' is green; a lime is a 'lemon'; and you should never use a red pen to write your students' names!

Mahatma Gandhi said, 'No matter how insignificant the thing you have to do, do it as well as you can, give as much of your care and attention as your would give to the thing you regard as most important.' (Stuart Gardiner; How to Overcome Low Self-Esteem; www.eslteachersboard.com) As teachers in the ESL classroom, we can follow his advice by presenting a well-prepared lesson. According to Ritchie (www.eslteachersboard.com) 'Preparation is one of the keys to overcoming fear of public speaking.' According to instructors at Via Lingua, TEFL International, our lessons should be a well thought out plan focused on a particular teaching point with activities to stimulate our students and should elicit the targeted language in a real-life situation. Above all, it should be interesting enough to keep the students engaged.

Many suggestions have been made on how to keep students motivated in the classroom in the on-line article Getting Started: The Basics of Teaching (http://writing.colostate.edu/guides/) One way to keep lessons interesting is by having the students interact with each other in English after giving them clear instructions on how to complete the activity. Real-life objects such as telephones, recipes, and video/DVD's can be incorporated into the lesson plan. Rather than having students sit there with blank stares on their faces, they will be using the English language to communicate with each other in a realistic manner, all thanks to the teacher's lesson plan. The teachers can then feel good about themselves for having given the students a sense of accomplishment. There's a surefire boost to a teacher's confidence!

Teachers can also encourage confidence in their students' abilities by using simplified grammar directions and slowing their pace of speech when giving directions or in class discussions. The student will comprehend more, thus feeling more confident is his/her ability to understand the second language. Other methods that can be used to increase the students' confidence are to provide gentle corrective feedback; to use positive praise and compliments; and to give rewards such as prizes for work well done. Avoiding criticism and negative feedback is necessary for teachers to provide a 'safe' environment where students are comfortable taking risks (ibid). By interacting and building rapport with students rather than just teaching them, we create a 'relationship' where students learn to have confidence in their abilities.

Teachers can also encourage students to immerse themselves in English by watching English films and television programs, listening to English music and books, taking tests such as TOEIC and TOEFL, doing homework assignments, and using one of the myriad ESL websites available on the Internet. (www.english00freehost.com). Lock (Stephen; IT and Language teaching: Building teacher confidence; www.aset.org.au) notes that ''the explosion of the Internet has given teachers and learners an almost unlimited database of authentic materials for study, a vast collection of specialist language learning sites that have been developed by experienced teachers, bulletin boards, email, chat rooms, etc. for the most part free of charge.' Termed CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning), this is a relatively new medium of language learning. ESL teachers can use this tool to their advantage when creating lesson plans and preparing teaching points and when looking for interesting and fun activities to keep their students interacting and speaking English. With such an infinite range of useful information available to them, there is no need for teachers of ESL to lack self-confidence in the classroom ever again!