Are you ever worried that your pronunciation isn’t as good as it could be? Are you sometimes concerned that you don’t have the right pronunciation for even some of the basic words? Do you ever feel like other people are judging your accent?

You’re not alone.

These thoughts and fears went around my head on a daily basis when I first moved to Italy and was trying to speak Italian. When I went into shops in Rome, the sales assistants and shopkeepers would hear me speak and immediately switch to English – I have to say, that did nothing for my self-confidence - although I'm sure they thought they were being helpful.

However, after much perseverance, time and personal reflection, I was able to speak Italian fluently, without worrying about my pronunciation and I even started enjoying the process of using the language freely to communicate with whomever I was speaking to.

As teachers these fears can become even more powerful as we are in a position of authority and should be role models for our students. When we let self-doubt creep in we can feel as though we’re not good enough, which in turn may lead to a lack of enthusiasm for the job, which will mean our student don’t get our best and will suffer from poor results, which will result in low level of job satisfaction. So, let’s look at five ways we can banish self-doubt and use more English with total confidence.

Picture by Johnhain on Pixabay

First off, I’d recommend thinking about how you sit or stand in the classroom. Do you sit behind your desk all day, using it as a physical barrier between yourself and your students? Do you sit with your arms or your legs crossed? Do you stay in the same place throughout your lessons? Just take a moment to notice what you do with your body during your working day. When we sit or stand with our head held high and our shoulders away from our ears keeping an open posture, this can actually help us feel more confident. There was an experiment with Dr. Amy Cuddy several years ago now, where they showed that having good posture actually increased the feeling of power of the individuals. It even translated to being understood as being more confident by interviewers.

My second tip is to move around the classroom. While you are the teacher in that room, it's your space. I know this can be difficult in some schools, where the students stay in the same classroom and the teachers move around, as you have to constantly figure out where everything is and get your thoughts and notes organised in front of the waiting learners. However, when you take ownership of the room, whether that’s walking around the desks to keep an eye on what your students are doing, or moving desks and chairs to put together the groups you want to create, you show the learners that you know what you’re doing and you’re not afraid. The more you do this, the easier it becomes, I promise!

Developing good rapport with your students is essential to building your confidence in the classroom. Rapport is not the same as friendship, however, you do need to build relationships with your students – firstly, learn their names, this might be the most basic and essential aspect of all relationships, however, you may be surprised at how often it is overlooked. It can also help to find out what your students are interested in, involve these likes, hobbies and passions into your discussions and lessons. By showing the students you care, they will be more motivated and more likely to succeed. Seeing your students get better results will help improve your confidence, which will help you (even if temporarily) forget about your fears and speak more fluently.

It may seem like a ridiculous thing to say, but using more English language during your lessons can actually help you lessen your fear. By doing the thing we’re afraid of we build up our confidence and by doing so regularly you will find it gets easier and easier. Soon enough you’ll be wondering why it felt so scary to begin with. Confidence doesn’t come with time, it comes with action. So, go on, see how much English you can use in your next class.

Finally, I would absolutely recommend continuing your professional development at every opportunity. There are plenty of courses, webinars, and support groups out there. I know that we’re all tight on time, life has a way of throwing unexpected challenges towards us at the most inconvenient times, however, investing time in yourself could be the best thing you ever do. It’s about finding the right fit for you, to be able to share your experiences and learn from others. Through this process, making time for yourself, to work on your own goals and dreams, you will discover new possibilities and new found confidence. Good luck!