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Do you have to be naturally confident to be a good teacher?

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  • lesleyjane
    20 July, 2007 at 14:26
    • Total posts: 2

    Hi everyone,

    I am new here and am looking for some advice from TEFL students or teachers and I thought this might be a good place to ask.

    I have been considering taking a CELTA course for some time now but have always been quite apprehensive about getting up in front of a class. Last month, I decided to attend a TEFL taster weekend to give myself an idea of what the CELTA course would be like. I thoroughly enjoyed all the theory & learning about grammar and different types of lessons, but when it came to doing a 10 minute teaching practice in front of the other students on the course, I was a nervous wreck! Although I got through my lessons (unlike a few others on the course) I felt sick with nerves all the way through. My throat was dry, my voice wasn’t loud enough, my hands were shaking, my blackboard writing was all wobbly and my knees were trembling so much that I was rooted to the one spot, holding onto the board all the way through. Everyone said that I appeared calm but I certainly didn’t feel it. I noticed that other students seemed very natural and relaxed when they were doing their practice – almost like they had a talent to teach people.

    I am not a naturally confident person. I really am quite introverted and shy and I wondered if perhaps this means that I would not make a good teacher. Obviously talking in front of a class is the main part of being a TEFL teacher so its important to be comfortable and confident doing so. Does this confidence come with practice to people, like me, who are shy, or should you already have it before you begin a course? I know I would be fine teaching people one-to-one, but I get so nervous at the thought of standing in front of a class…especially throughout the CELTA course where you are also being observed.

    I know that I would enjoy the lesson preparations and the creativity involved and certainly being able to help people learn another language, but I don’t know if I can get over the nerves I have about taking a class. Can anyone offer me some advice? Has anyone felt similar and managed to overcome their nerves, or do you think that it takes an already confident person to succeed in this field?

    Sorry this post is so long! I have not been sure where to get some honest advice about this so thank you for any help that you are able to give me.

    Lesley x

    24 July, 2007 at 8:04
    • Total posts: 258

    Reply To: Do you have to be naturally confident to be a good teacher?

    Hi Lesley

    What you describe is perfectly normal. I am yet to meet a teacher who wasn’t very nervous when they got up in front of a class on their training course. I certainly was!

    Remember that on the CELTA you are being observed all the time by your tutor and fellow trainees – when you start a teaching job, this won’t be the case (apart from occasional observations by your Director of Studies which, again, can make even the most experienced of teachers nervous).

    What I’m trying to say is that you would be in a very small minority if your knees weren’t wobbly and your mouth didn’t go dry!! – I suspect that under the cool exterior that you describe in the other trainees, they were feeling the same as you.

    If you are a naturally shy person, this does not mean that you cannot be a good teacher. It is a question of finding a teaching style which suits you. If you like the idea of the creative side of things, this is a good sign. As your experience grows, your confidence in your teaching will grow, and the nerves will get less and less.

    I hope this helps – teaching can be the most rewarding of professions. If you like the idea of teaching, as you clearly do, then go for it. You’ll find that it’s worth the inevitable nerves of the training course!


    25 July, 2007 at 9:37
    • Total posts: 1

    Reply To: Do you have to be naturally confident to be a good teacher?

    Hi Lesley,

    I’ve been teaching English for over 10 years but I distinctly remember how nervous I was getting in front of a class the first time. Now, I hadn’t had any training, and was only volunteering at the local YMCA, but these were real students expecting to really learn English. I was a nervous wreck!

    BUT, as time went on, and I realized I wasn’t hopeless, I became more and more natural and relaxed. I just moved to Australia from Germany, was in Poland for years before that, and am originally from the US. I just started another new job in Australia, and it’s not a problem at all.

    Some people are natural teachers. I will admit that I think I am a natural teacher. Do you have to have a lot of self confidence? Not really. I most certainly don’t. BUT, what I DO have is a love of working with people, helping people and am definitely an extrovert.

    Good luck! Teaching is a wonderful profession.


    Sue Swift
    25 July, 2007 at 10:47
    • Total posts: 26

    Reply To: Do you have to be naturally confident to be a good teacher?

    Hi Lesley,

    I’ve been teaching for over thirty years and I’m still nervous every time I meet a new class. And I don’t think I’d want to go on teaching if I wasn’t – it’s a sign that I know I might meet something new and challenging, and that I’m putting myself on the line. Without that, it would get very boring.

    It’s a bit like going on the stage. You need the adrenaline that nerves create to give a really good performance the first time. Then as you get used to the situation – in this case the class – the nerves calm down and you relax into it more. But not too much – I doubt if the cast of the Mousetrap were nervous after their Nth performance, but I doubt if it was great acting either. There comes a time when, if you’re too much at home with a class, it all gets dull. There’s no stimulus any more, for you or them. So it’s time to change – and back to more first night nerves.

    I’m not trying to say by all this that you need to be putting on a great theatrical performance in the classroom. As somebody else said too, there are all sorts of different teaching styles and the important thing is to find yours so you can be yourself. Your CELTA course should help with this. Don’t think that the tutors are expecting amazing predefined things from you – they’re not. They’re there to teach you various techniques, which you’re not expected to know before, which will give you a framework within which they can help you develop as a teacher while remaining yourself.

    Obviously, if you continue to be really terrified even when you’ve finished your course and are working unobserved with your own classes, and it just makes the whole thing miserable for you, perhaps it’s not the right path. There’s no stigma attached to saying I’d be better at and I’d be happier doing something else. Quite the opposite. But give it a try first – and lots of luck.

    Let us know how you get on.


    For articles on ELT methodology and practical activities – http://eltnotebook.blogspot.com

    25 July, 2007 at 17:52
    • Total posts: 2

    Reply To: Do you have to be naturally confident to be a good teacher?

    Thank you all very much for your kind and helpful replies. Its certainly nice to know that I am not the only one with jelly knees and that even experienced teachers can sometimes feel nervous. I am going to give it a try…I am sure I will be weeded out at the interview process if I don’t have what it takes.

    Thank you all again for taking the time to write such detailed responses, I appreciate it very much and I’ll let you know how I get on.


    Paddy Fields
    2 June, 2008 at 17:12
    • Total posts: 3

    Reply To: Do you have to be naturally confident to be a good teacher?

    Well I am right there with you. The night before my current teaching job, I slept for 1 hour and when I woke up I had to hang the t-shirt I sleep in out to dry and change my bed.

    I am not a very confident person and very shy and quiet by nature but this is the profession I have chosen and I will give it 100%. I take a deep breath and I try as best as possible not to let any nerves show. I find knowing a bit of the local (Thai) language helps me as it takes them aback as the foreigner is not supposed to talk to them in their language. I start with introductions and get them writing… In the few minutes it takes them to write, I take a drink and deep breaths and get cracking with the rest of the lesson.

    I have a post ongoing and I’m upset at times by the lack of motivation from my students. I want to shake them and make them realise they do not have much of a future if they do not learn. I am retired and on a pension so I’m okay whatever they do.

    Anyway I hope things are better for you now.

    4 May, 2020 at 9:22
    • Total posts: 1

    Hi everyone,

    I’m in the same situation here. I’m wondering if I have enough confidence to do the CELTA course and if I’ll be a good teacher. I have got a job in Japan to teach kids, but I am not sure I’ll be great at it!

    Also, does anyone know of any good ESL schools in Australia Adelaide apart from Navitas, ELC, ILSC, Kaplan, IELI, SACE etc?

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