Monday, February 23, 2015

Eat. Play. Teach. Blog entry #3 - by Georgina Selander

Inspired insights from a TEFL teacher

Cultivating confidence

We’ve all encountered that teacher. And this has nothing to do with awkward dress sense (grandpa sweaters made a comeback, right?) but more about the palm-sweating, word-swallowing, eye-contact-avoiding type. The teacher whose shyness so overwhelms them that the spectacle that plays out is uncomfortable to watch.

Professing to be no self-help guru, (and a repeat-offender of awkwardness myself) I can’t tell you exactly what it takes to be self-assured. What I do know is that, standing in front of your class (wherever it may be) has earned you your stripes. You’re past the point of good impressions – it’s just a matter of living up to them.

So my advice to you would be: own your space.

When I first began teaching at The Knowledge Workshop, there were inevitably some first-time jitters. I wasn’t sure if I was really competent enough to take up this experience, or to be the captain of the proverbial classroom ship. But over time, I learnt to trust in myself and my ability. I learnt that my role didn’t require a complete personality shift – but rather allowing my unique teacher brand to shine through.

It goes without saying that we’re all distinctive individuals. And the beauty of this is that, because of that, we come to the classroom with our own set of interests, and a unique repertoire of cultural experience. So let that be your guide.

As a writer, I’ve often been told that the best place to start is with what you know. Applying that to teaching means that whatever your background – football fundi, food enthusiast or artist extraordinaire – there is a way to incorporate your personal skillset into the classroom.

Bring in materials that you’re knowledgeable about and interested in – and your personal passion will motivate your students. An inspired and insightful teacher is always a memorable one.

That being said, we also tend to be our harshest critics. When things don’t pan out as expected, or a game doesn’t garner the wide-eyed enthusiasm you’d hoped for, don’t let this bring you down. If anything, it’s an opportunity to assess what kinds of materials your class finds stimulating. And there’s no harm in re-working a previous activity to greater effect.

Don’t let perfectionism or self-doubt put you in a prickly perch. Even if it requires ten minutes of slow breathing before entering the classroom, or a morning mirror mantra telling yourself how absolutely fabulous you are (because you are).

It’s not that we all need to be the Regina George of the classroom. Heaven knows it’s taken me a long road to work on my sense of self-assurance. But it’s a process with a surprising domino effect – once you feel comfortable in your classroom skin, the rest will come so much easier.

So much of my life was dictated by an internal dialogue of unworthiness. Until I realised I needed to change my personal pep-talk.

So remember this:

You’re the captain of your ship. The master of your sail. Trust me, you got this.

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