They say when a boxer becomes world champion he adds 25-50% to his performances. The reason for this is not because he is suddenly technically better, but rather that he has the confidence in himself that he can achieve at the highest level of the sport. A prime example of this is a boxer from Sheffield called Johnny Nelson. Prior to winning a world title, Nelson had 12 defeats. After capturing the belt, he made 13 defences, a record that has only just been equalled, and retired without losing again.
I think teaching is similar. When you have confidence that you are doing a good job, you really do it better. But what builds confidence? Little things. Being happy to go to work, not being completely knackered every day, the odd bit of praise here and there, being listened to, success. What damages it? Bad behaviour, bad management, stupid dictates from SLT about teaching styles, parents, unsuccessful lessons.
How do you limit those bad influences and keep your confidence up? Here are a few strategies.
- Have absolute confidence in what you are doing in lessons. Do your research and make sure your practice reflects that fact you have read around your subject. If you are a subject specialist, make sure you really are; if you are in primary, make sure you get at least Maths/English absolutely right.
- Treat every piece of feedback on your teaching with an open mind. Never accept something that is subjective. Politely nod and ignore it. So long as you are getting good results there is really nothing that people can beat you with. You have the ace up your sleeve. People tell you to be reflective and they are right, but you need to balance that against making wholesale changes to things you know work.
- If you don’t get on with your line manager, do your best to do so. If you find the differences are intractable simply ignore that person and go above their heads. A personal conflict can hurt your class teaching and you need to protect this above all else. If this doesn’t work then get another job and make sure people know why you are leaving.
- If you are having problems with behaviour make sure you follow the correct strategies (there is a lot out there to read) and keep going. If this fails to work make sure you annoy your management until they sort it out.
- Get involved in twitter – it is a source of invaluable advice and a tool you can use to give you practical ideas every day.
Above all else the children in your class(es) are the most important thing. They deserve you to be effective. You need to protect that. People will tell you all other things are more important, but they aren’t. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by anything else. Teaching is probably the only profession where when you get good at it, you leave the classroom and stop doing it. If you want to manage then do it, but until then make teaching your priority and don’t let anything get in the way of your confidence to do the job.