I’ve recently been thinking about the importance of confidence for one’s well-being, especially in relation to one’s professional life.
The definition of confidence is the quality of being certain of your abilities or of having trust in people, plans, or the future. I’d say that feeling confident means being in harmony. It makes you feel calm, reasonable, and generally less vulnerable because you are not haunted by the fear that somebody or something may suddenly ‘attack’ your fragile self.
I think I am a confident person and many would say I have always been. But I realize there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance and yes, I’d say I used to be a bit arrogant as a newbie teacher. In hindsight, I thought I knew more than I actually did. Since then, I haven’t changed a lot on the outside in this respect. I probably appear to be the same person. However, deep down I know that the quality of my confidence has changed dramatically. It’s been transformed and refined and it’s influenced how I feel and who I am to myself.
I’d like to say that I’ve worked hard and consciously on my confidence but it’s mostly been an automatic process. Below are some of the components which, I believe, have contributed to my current state of well-being.
It goes without saying that many young people think they are much smarter than their tutors/teachers/parents. I wasn’t different. So it makes me smile whenever I come across an over-confident young teacher of English. You’ll recognize him or her immediately; such a teacher usually speaks very quickly, almost unintelligibly (probably because they’ve just returned from a long trip across North America and they want everybody to know). They are absorbed in what they do rather than what their students do or should do. They don’t need to follow lesson plans because they can make a lesson on the spot. If they do plan, they plan far too much for one lesson. As a result, things get a little chaotic.
Well, you gradually come to realize that planning is handy. That sometimes less is better than more. That speaking slowly and intelligibly doesn’t make you look less proficient. That focusing on your students is more beneficial than listening to (and secretly admiring) your wonderful, fluent English (which makes you feel so good because it temporarily gives you the aura of superiority). However, you’ll soon discover that rather than needing a superstar to look up to, your students crave structure and clarity in order to learn. And this is what you need to learn.
Having said that, your English obviously should be good. Students will spot your weaknesses regardless of their level of proficiency. And let’s be honest, it’s pretty embarrassing if a teacher makes basic errors over and over again. So, again, you will have to learn. Non-stop. Forever. It’s only logical if you realize that a new generation of students comes each and every year. So you’d better keep up with these students because they will always be more knowledgeable in some areas of the language. This may appear daunting at first but in fact, it’s quite motivating.
Education is not the same as degree for me. In the Czech Republic, most teachers have an MA degree but obviously, they don’t come from the same educational background. I hold an MA degree from Masaryk University, Brno, which I am extremely proud of. Moreover, I finished my studies at the time when the quality of the program was at its best (I think). While my colleagues complain that they didn’t get enough methodology courses during their studies, I had plenty. What is more, I was tutored by two great teachers, Nikki Fořtová and James Thomas (both well-known in the online environment), who provided us with the latest approaches and methods in the field of ELT. It was after I finished my studies when I joined the online community of ELT teachers, which, in return, boosted my confidence tremendously.
Having a degree (by which I mean a piece of paper and a few letters in front of your name) is very important too. I used to ‘live’ with a BA degree for many years and, to be frank, it was devastating at times. Given the fact that most teachers in the state system of education hold MA degrees, I was ‘different’ in this respect. Something was missing for me to feel completely confident. Although I did feel confident as a teacher, my ego never let me fully accept the fact that I was ‘less’ than the others. So, I’m really happy that I finally picked up where I had last left off. This contributed to my confidence like nothing else before.
This is the area which seems to be under our control to a great extent. Still, there are no actions if there are no opportunities. And although we create the seeds of our opportunities inside of us, they eventually come from the outside. I don’t even remember when and how it all started. It’s kind of blurred now. I think it was Shelly Terrell and her fantastic team of teachers who gave me the first nudge to start a blog. I should also thank Nikki Fořtová, who mentioned that there was a huge community of online teachers. And then, the first opportunities came. People responded to my posts. I was invited to write for other blogs and journals. I was invited to present at a conference and to be a conference reporter at two important events for teachers here in the Czech Republic. You know the story … If these were not the major confidence boosters then what?
Well, this looks like a paragraph from a different post, maybe even a different blog. No, I’m not starting a beauty blog. I just want to say that appearance matters. I feel much better in front of a class when I’m fit. I think I can deliver a better lesson if my clothes fit well and I’d be very nervous if I discovered that I forgot to put on my mascara. Yes, these things happen. 🙂
Anyway, what are your confidence boosters?