How do we build this vital personal trait in our classrooms?
Let’s get straight to the point on this – it starts with you….so what does this mean?
It’s something we often forget in school – just how much we mean in the lives of our children. We play an enormous part in their lives….it may not seem like it at times but yes we do.
Now it doesn’t matter whether you have a difficult class or some “off the wall” individuals – your influence pervades their lives to a huge degree.
Here’s a quick example… a mum came to me some time ago to tell me how much her son loved being in my class (which is always great to hear). ” When I ask him, Mr Watson, what he has done in class he never says much about it…but he always wants to tells me what else has been happening and the things that you have been talking about.”
This of course stems directly from the atmosphere that you have created in your classroom – that feeling of “our class” and of everyone feeling valued. Here’s a link to an article I wrote on just this subject which you may wish to read.
I have said previously that in creating a great atmosphere in class does not mean that things are easy going or lax. Quite the opposite. In creating a well ordered and structured classroom it allows all the children to be confident and secure in the environment that exists and also in you the person who is ensuring this is maintained.
It means that there are no unpredictable occurrences (well as far as we can hope…there are bound to be of course, from time to time!). No individual members of the class that dominate at the expense of others and that all children have confidence in their teacher.
So what does having confidence in their teacher actually mean?
Let’s make an attempt at bullet pointing this…
- There are set rules in the class that are known to all
- Any procedures and sanctions are predictable and are applied consistently
- The reaction and interactions of the teacher is predictable firm and fair.
- All children are treated equally irrespective of academic level or ability
- There is an atmosphere of “our class”…pride in the class, encouragement, praise and a “can do” attitude. – x – ref Mindset
- Every child feels cared for, valued and protected by the teacher.
I am sure you could add to the list for your own class….
It is from this base that you, as the teacher, have the confidence of the children in your class – and as such, having created this confidence in you, it can now be returned to inspire the children to have confidence in themselves.
It’s a “supported” can do attitude!
In knowing your children, you will quickly get a broad idea of their own likes, dislikes and areas where they may lack confidence. This may be academically, personally or in any new situations within which they are unfamiliar.
You will find that children who may seem outgoing and personally confident can suddenly change when confronted with the unfamiliar.
I once took my class on a farm visit – let me give it a little context. This was a class from an inner city school in a very deprived area. On our farm visit we would help out on the farm and come into contact with the animals….not always from a distance!
Helping out was great fun…shovelling manure, laying straw bedding and topping up feed. We saw the cows being milked and the sheep dog rounding up sheep. It was a completely new and exciting world. Our contact with the small day old chicks amazed these streetwise children and brought out a soft and caring side – however when we had to hand feed some sheep we were way out of our comfort zone! This was frightening and unknown and most wanted to run behind the fences…however with encouragement and by watching others, gradually I was able to reassure them that this was not such a frightening experience and they they should give it a go. By having confidence in what I, as the teacher, was saying and demonstrating, they were able to overcome their fears and experience something they had never imagined.
It’s good to challenge children to step out of their comfort zone – however in most instances you will have to be there to encourage, support and share the experience with them. It also has to be remembered that things won’t always be successful and of course this then requires further support from you in not giving up, trying again and resilience….all of which feature strongly in the mindset programmes that many schools are adopting and which in my opinion is a vital skill for life.
Fear of the unknown and fear of failure
These are 2 completely different aspects which you have to approach separately.
Fear of the unknown is a child’s fear of what may happen or the consequences of taking on a challenge. They may lack self confidence in their own abilities or may even just be plain frightened by what they perceive is in front of them. This can be the case for aspects of the curriculum as well as extra curricular activities and it is the role of the teacher to guide, encourage and at times give smaller step by step moderated challenges to overcome this situation.
Fear of failure strikes at 2 areas either of which may be dominant…
- Personal confidence and how will I feel if I can’t do this.
- The views of others about me and how will I look if I fail.
For both children and adults this is one of life’s big lessons – the ability to fail at something and take setbacks. Again we are returning to Mindset and I will leave that aspect to a future article.
However as is often said
Just because you fail doesn’t mean that you are a failure
Its a lesson for us all and one that you must encourage in your classroom for all the pupils – the strength of character to not only attempt new things but also to fail at them – never give up and keep on trying.
Encouraging confidence in our children is a vital part of what we do in school and should pervade every action and interaction we have. It is vital not only for academic progress and success but also in the personal development of each child as a confident, outgoing and personable individual.
It is in my opinion one of the core basics in the education of each and every pupil in our care and it is imperative that we realise, understand and implement the conditions within which it can flourish.