Education is an important part of a child’s life. Most children begin their educational experience at the age of three and continue until they are eighteen. A child spends six hours a day for 180 days a year in the class room. The people, especially the adults the child spends this enormous chunk of time with, have the ability to encourage or destroy the child.
For some children the teachers in their life are the only adults they have daily interactions with, making the student/teacher relationship especially important. Keeping those interactions positive is imperative to help build confidence in the child. A child who feels confident in his abilities is less likely to act up in class and more likely to participate in classroom acceptable ways. While it can seem daunting to find time to speak to each child in every class every day, it can be done. Here are a few suggestions and strategies for building confidence in your students.
Strategies for the first week of school
Get to know your students- The first week of school your students are complete individuals. They may have been attending school together for many years but at this moment the classroom dynamic has not been formed yet. This is the time to introduce them to your goals and expectations for the coming year, and to spend some time learning about the students as individuals. Play some games, how some fun and take notes on the responses and interactions of the students. This is your platform to start from as you build confidence in your classroom and in your individual students.
Arrange your classroom- You will need to do this more than once. As you get to know your individual students, you will need to evaluate the classroom to create the best possible learning environment. This first week spend some time moving students around and see who works well together. You want to create a space where the students feel comfortable, safe, and capable. This process may go on beyond the first week of school. Be patient. This may seem like a waste of time but it will cut down on disruptions in your classroom and create a classroom more conducive to learning. A child who feels safe and valued in the classroom will be involved in what is being taught and less likely to be distracted or create distractions.
Throughout the year
Greet the students- Stand close to your classroom door and greet the students as they enter the classroom. Make eye contact and smile. It’s okay to like your job and show it. If the students feel welcome in the classroom they will feel more confident about their contributions.
Be consistent- If the classroom rule states you won’t call on a student unless his/her hand is raised, stick to the rule. If your best friend’s son or your brother’s-girlfriend’s-uncle’s daughter speaks out of turn gentle remind him/her of the rule: “Raise your hand, please. I only call on raised hands”.
Be fair- All humans find themselves liking certain people more than others, it is in our nature. However, you cannot show favoritism in the classroom this undermines a student’s confidence in himself, in you as a teacher, and if it continues throughout his learning experience it will undermine his confidence in the educational system as a whole. If you reprimand Joey for using the wastebasket as a basketball hoop you must reprimand Jaina for the same offense even if she is the head cheerleader or captain of the science club or in your Sunday school class.
Sandwich bad news- When a student turns in an assignment or a test that is of poor quality try a sandwich approach instead of just a big red “F” and a sad face. Begin with a positive statement: “Your paragraph on Thomas Edison was well researched. I like that you included his lesser known inventions.” Then the bad news: “I needed to see research examples about the other inventors listed in the Rubric as well as a paragraph tying them to modern day.” Finish with a positive comment: “Your writing has improved since the beginning of school. Thank you for your efforts.” Your actually responses will depend on the individual student and your knowledge of his/her abilities. If possible take a few minutes after class to speak with the student and determine ways to improve the quality of work. If you can’t meet right after class, determine a time in the next few days to meet with the student and possibly the parents if this is an on-going situation.
Verbal reinforcement- Some students respond best to verbal reinforcement as opposed to the above mentioned written reinforcement. I still feel you should always provide at least one short positive written comment on each student’s work as a reminder to the student and parent that you value the student’s efforts, but also take time every day to say at least one positive statement to each student. It doesn’t have to be a conversation, a simple “Thank you for quietly reading while the rest of the class finished the test” or “Thank you for helping so-and-so with his books” can be enough to boost a student’s esteem and confidence in his/her abilities.
Be welcoming to new students- Throughout the year you will have new students arrive and others leave. It is important to be welcoming to the new students, modeling the behavior you expect from your classroom. As new student arrive you will need to once again evaluate the classroom dynamic and determine if changes need to be made to improve the new dynamic of the classroom. Remember to immediately include the new student in the above positive interactions to instill self-confidence in the student, confidence in the classroom as a whole, and keep the class’s confidence in you.
By instilling confidence in your students, you allow them to grow and achieve new heights in learning. As the year goes on you can step back a little giving the students space to step up and show leadership skills as well as team work, they will need both skills when they head out into the world as an adult. By helping to foster self-belief in your students, you are helping to create a brighter future for all of us. As a teacher, the future is in your hands.