August 23, 2021
By Aleta Margolis, Founder and President, Center for Inspired Teaching
Hooray for Monday is a weekly blog filled with questions, ideas, reflections, and actions we can all take to remodel the school experience for students.
Regular readers know of my obsession with Alan Alda’s podcast Clear+Vivid, the greatest tutorial I have found on how to be an effective communicator. At the end of each episode, guests are invited to answer some quick questions about communication. One of those questions is, “Where does your confidence come from?”
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this question, and what my answer would be. Thoughtful planning and preparation would surely be on the list. So would age – half a century of learning from success and failure has taught me a lot and given me the confidence to keep putting myself out there and keep on learning. And, then there are the people who raised me. My parents, other elders in my family, and some caring teachers – these people believed in me. They interacted with me in a way that showed they thought I was capable of making decisions, navigating difficulty, and doing things that matter.
Preparation, reflection, and connection with people who instill confidence: these three ideas can lead to simple action steps we can all take to bolster our confidence during this challenging year.
- Thorough preparation. Crafting a detailed, thoughtful, and thought-through plan for each lesson frees you up to listen to, and be responsive to, the needs and ideas of your students. When you start from this place of clarity, you’re able to recalibrate your plans in the moment to respond with confidence – not only to student input but also to external inputs like changes in public and school safety measures.
- Focused reflection. Recalling your personal successes and failures and the lessons that go with them connects you with your personal wisdom. Whether you’re looking back and examining decades of classroom experience, your first or second year of teaching, or even your own experience as a student, there’s a wealth of knowledge in your personal journey. And that personal wisdom can inspire confidence as you navigate both the knowns and unknowns of this school year.
- Connection to personal history. Remember the people who believe in you. Remember the times you proved to yourself that you were capable of doing hard things. And keep in mind that you are part of the personal history of your students. When you engage with students in a way that shows you have confidence in them, you let them know their minds are capable and their ideas are important. And you spark the continued growth of their confidence.
There’s a lot going on right now that can zap our confidence: concerns about the physical safety of our students and ourselves, unknowns about how and where we’ll teach as the school year progresses, and other factors that can make us feel shaky about getting our in-person teaching sea legs back.
So it’s worth spending time pinpointing the places where our confidence comes from. Tracking the path of our own confidence will not only keep us grounded, it will also set us up to teach our students to find, and build, their own confidence – while they are in our classrooms this year, and long after they move on.