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A two minute activity that will change your learners lives



Okay, that title is a bold claim, but I think it is one that I can justify. Before I share the secret I learned to improved confidence, I would like to share a story about my younger years as a teacher.


My early career wasn’t in teaching. I was actually in retail management. I had traveled after I graduated university and then quite by accident found myself in a career as a clothes store manager. I enjoyed the job and the pay wasn’t bad, but deep down I knew I wanted to do something different. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I quit my career in retail to come and work as a teacher at a language school in Japan.


I taught mainly younger learners back in those days. The school I worked at had a good support network and regular training, so I adjusted pretty quickly. I also loved it! I found myself exhausted at the end of each day but it was so much fun. In those early days, I felt a little like an imposter because I wasn’t a trained teacher. I used to spend a great deal of time meticulously planning my lessons and going through in my head what I had to do for each day. I was worried that someone would find me out. I spent a total of five years working at that particular language school before deciding to return to Britain to complete my MA in TESOL.


After graduating and getting my MA I decided to try for work at a university in Japan. I applied for several positions and was fortunate enough to get offered a job at a large international university near where I wanted to live. The university had many language teachers teaching an array of languages and most of the teachers were in an open planned office. There were many meetings and at first I found it very intimidating. I was one of the least experienced teachers and it was my first time teaching at that level. On many occasions, I doubted my ability to teach at a university, so I applied the same principals I had done when first embarking on my teaching career.


I was meticulous in my planning and I spent hours running through in my head how I would approach each lesson. When it came time to teach, I would put on my best smile and fake it! I acted confident but deep down I was petrified! I worked as hard as I ever had done in retail to try to maintain this image as a teacher who knew what he was doing. Every class, I would go in and pretend to be a good teacher. I would teach with enthusiasm and portray a sense of confidence, but I was always terrified of someone seeing behind the curtain.


That leads me to the two minute activity that I so bold promised would help to change your learners’ lives. I am confident it will because it worked for me. I recently saw a Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy. The title is Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are. In this video she talks about her studies on how body language can change not only other people’s perceptions of you, but it can also shape your own body chemistry. She shows how by adopting a simple pose for two minutes we can physically become more confident. She ended by stating that if people can act confidently enough they can learn to not only ‘fake it until they make it’ but actually ‘fake it until they believe it’.


Her message resonated so strongly with me because I realized that in my early days as a teacher at the both language school and university I did just exactly that. Every class, I planned so meticulously that I could actually fake confidence in class. More than that, I did this for long enough to believe that I could actually teach. For those who know me now, I am a pretty confident teacher who is willing to take risks, loves having fun, and is completely relaxed in the classroom. I am convinced that the reason for this is that I faked it until I believed it.


I have been showing this video and telling this story to my learners recently. Please watch the video and encourage your learners to do the same. As I said, I have tried the experiment recently and showed the video after doing so, and the response was amazing! They loved it!


Finally, please let me know what you think. I’d love to hear your experiences.


Neil Millington

Neil Millington

Neil Millington has taught English as a foreign language in Japan for over 12 years. He has taught a wide range of age levels from pre-kindergarten students to adults. He is currently teaching at the tertiary level. He earned his BA at the University of Sussex in Brighton, England and his MA in TESOL at Lancaster University, England. Currently, Neil is working on his PhD in language learning motivation also at Lancaster University. Neil is also the co-founder of, an English reading website with hundreds of free lessons for teachers and learners.
Neil Millington

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One Response to A two minute activity that will change your learners lives

  1. Thanks Neil, for writing this, i really enjoyed it and the TED video. It resonates with me and i agree with everything you say. To support what you and Amy Cuddy say, my story may interest you. I taught in a tough Comprehensive school in Wales for 17 years. I was a Head of Year, so when teachers had class discipline problems they would send an SOS for me !! I remember on numerous occasions, teachers rushed to me in distress and sometimes in tears because the class was out of control and climbing off the walls. So, i would walk into the class and simply stand in front of them in my silence mode, hardly moving, chin up, chest out and eyes focussed very slowly scanning then class members. Usually within about 1-2 minutes, they would be sitting down in silence, and i had said nothing and hardly moved !! 100% body language, they didn’t know what i was really thinking or feeling inside. I tell all teachers i train now, ” you are an actor”, when you walk in the class ( meeting) , flick the actor mode switch and go, even if you are feeling like shit – fake it!
    Thanks again
    Ian ( Influencers and achieving “High Performance” )

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