Developing confidence as a teacher

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Lack of confidence has been at the heart of my career. It’s only now I’ve come to realise how much it’s held me back. I’ve also learnt that I need time. And lots of it.

I recently read Changing Faces of Adult Literacy, Language and Numeracy: A Critical History, which I felt explained a lot. Since I have felt more clear on the sector of ALLN and I decided to buy some of the books referenced in it. I started with An Introduction to Literacy Teaching, which was published by the now dissolved Adult Literacy and Basic Skills Unit (ALBSU). 

Considering it was first published in 1980, I found it to be an extremely informative read and it suggested some activities I think are still current in the literacy classroom. To my relief, the book validated my ideas of how to approach sessions/learners, where to start and how sessions could develop; in an individual way. Some through my career have suggested that I should make life easy for myself and produce ‘workbooks’, which I fundamentally disagreed with. The fact is that in an ever bureaucratic teaching environment targets are under scrutiny. I’ve been bogged down with considering which approach to take, when in fact I always knew the answer but I just didn’t feel I had the confidence or the affirmation to develop it from there. I’ve noticed that from reading more recently, the books are confirming my thoughts which I feel immense comfort from.

I believe that in identifying the way to proceed, I can now move forward to developing my understanding of how this translates into a mixed level, chaotic, roll on roll off programme. ALBSU (1980, p.7) discusses experiences of learning and suggests that it is beneficial to discuss successful learning with students, but also unsuccessful learning in order to pinpoint what the main reasons for failure were. ALBSU (1980, p.8) continue to discuss that by ‘talking about these factors, you can see how learning is affected by many things’ and that it is ‘a relief for the student to find other people have failed for similar reasons’.

Relating this to my own learning, I think I am scared/embarrassed of what I don’t know. I think other tutors know more than me and I hardly ever see/never give myself credit for skills that they might not have.  Whilst I am still working in the sector and have never given up there have of course been times where I feel that I have failed. There areas are:

  • sometimes feeling like I don’t know what/why a learner isn’t learning/having difficulty
  • sometimes feeling like I don’t know why I am having difficulty
  • not being sure on how to structure sessions
  • losing sight of how a SOW develops in literacy as opposed to other subject areas
  • coming home and wanting to avoid CPD so I don’t put myself in the situation of feeling like the first and second bullet point!

The main reasons for my previous failure, and ultimately feelings of anxiety are:

  • avoidance
  • lack of support and few people to act as a sounding board
  • feelings of competition between tutors – not wanting to feel embarrassed
  • too much information and a struggle to ‘see’ how things work

Now what? Well, I feel more positive now that 2 years ago about my own learning and I am making positive steps to address my own learning. Sometimes, there isn’t anyone to ask, and sometimes it’s about developing your own confidence to see you through the unknown. This is also of course where reflection comes in. In order to learn, I have come to realise I like logic and explicit explanations before I can put something into practice. This blog is acting as a tool to help me learn and consciously address some thoughts.

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