How To Make A Child Feel Confident at School
A Teacher Must Wear Many Hats
A huge barrier facing a lot of teachers is the lack of self-confidence felt by their students. Whilst the children might show this self-doubt in a variety of different ways – some shout out more, avoidance tactics, anger – there’s no doubt that a lack of self-confidence can be crippling for children.
However, there are several small and easy-to-implement strategies that you can use to help improve a child’s confidence. The more confident the children feel in the classroom; the better work they’ll produce.
Imagine a child doesn’t feel confident in a lesson, then every time they’re faced with this lesson they’ll begin to worry. Now if they do this enough times, then they’re eventually going to lock that message away in their subconscious and, whenever they arrive at class, that message will be sent to their brain from their subconscious and they’ll begin to act up instantly – so it’s important that we win the battle before they walk through the door.
Creating a nurturing environment is a key part of doing this.
Whilst you might be thinking “it’s not my job to raise their confidence, I’m only their teacher”. I’m telling you in no uncertain terms that it definitely is your job. As their teacher you must also be their counsellor, advisor and role-model.
If you disagree, then maybe you’re in the wrong job.
I make mistakes everyday – we all do.
However, I know a lot of teachers who insist that their mistakes are merely “deliberate errors” designed to test the students. But if you act like this whenever you err, then you’re clearly sending the children the message that it’s not okay to make a mistake.
If you want the children to be confident enough to ask questions and to attempt new challenges, then you must show them that it’s okay to make a mistake and demonstrate that mistakes are actually fantastic opportunities to learn.
Whenever a child in my class pints out a mistake that I’ve made (maybe a wrong answer or spelling mistake on the board) I give them a merit. This teaches them 2 invaluable lessons – that it’s alright to make mistakes and to take responsibility for them when they do happen.
Show children that it’s alright to make mistakes and they’ll feel more confident approaching a new subject and will produce better results.
I've also found it that the children are more excited to share ideas and attempt new challenges across the curriculum. The children produce amazing results using ICT because they're not afraid to try new software or face a technical problem.
Make The Children Feel Super!
In the few years that I’ve been teaching, I’ve head children put themselves down in many different ways, including;
- This is too hard, I can’t do it
- I’m dumb
- I’ll never be able to do it
- My Mum says I’m stupid
- He/She is better than me
For some children, you might be the only person in their whole life who tells them that they can achieve their goals or that gives them a sense of self-worth. Giving positive feedback, both verbally and written, can help change a child’s mind-set and make them feel more positive about themselves and more confident in their approach to education.
Don’t Give Erasers
This goes back to my earlier point about showing children that it’s okay to make mistakes.
Too often we as teachers pressure children into giving us beautiful handwriting and extremely neat work. We tell them to erase any mistakes from their books rather than simply crossing them out because we don’t want the mess.
But what does that achieve?
It only serves to make children feel anxious about their presentation and makes them dread getting a question wrong because they’ll have to erase it and start over.
I refuse to allow the children in my class to use erasers. The work they’ve crossed out shows me that they’ve thought about their work and have been confident enough to self-correct. It also gives me a good idea of their thought process and how comfortable they feel using the method they’ve been given.
The results of refusing to give them an eraser?
A lot of messy work but a lot more progress. The children are not afraid to try and fail in my lessons (even if their work is covered in crossings-out) and, as such, they will work at a problem until they find the solution.
A Quick Quiz
Do you feel your teachers help develop your self-confidence at school?
Don’t Know Everything
I don’t know everything and neither do you.
Nor can either of us be expected to.
So why do we feel like we have to pretend that we know everything whenever we’re with our class?
Quite often, I’m asked a question and I’m clueless as to the answer and, when this situation occurs, I openly admit that I don’t know the answer to the children.
Then I Google the question and we explore the answer together.
I’ve found that showing the children that I don’t know everything had had 2 major effects.
Firstly, the children are much more engaged when we research a subject together.
Secondly, the children feel more confident asking questions because the know there’s no pressure on them to have all the answers.
The more questions they ask, the more knowledge they gain and the more progress they make.
A Message to Send
Children love to show off good work, so let them.
Have you own “star of the day” and only pick people from your class who’ve worked hard or produced some amazing work. This will not only give them more confidence but will also incentivise each lesson and give them a reason to work hard.
I also think that it’s important to take an interest in their lives and to celebrate any hobbies that they have. Ask them to bring medals, certificates and trophies into school so that you can celebrate it with them and the class.
The more valued they feel as people, the more confident they’ll be in the classroom.
Confidence can lead to Harder Working Students
Build a Rapport
In my opinion, the most important thing you can do to make sure children are happy and confident in school, is build a rapport with them.
How do you do this?
The easiest way to do this is to listen. Children love to tell you about their lives and share stories with you, listen to what they have to say and, within certain boundaries, share with them a small part of your life too such as the name of your pet or your favourite sports team.
Trust me, listening and sharing makes you relatable and human and will allow you to build a good rapport with your students. This will then make them more confident approaching you and attempting new challenges in your lesson.
If the children trust you to lead them, then they will follow your every word.
Helping children become more confident isn’t an overnight job, but it is an important part of being a teacher. For some children, school is a safe place and you are an adult who can be a good role-model for them – helping them to recognise their talents and abilities by building their confidence so that they might succeed in school and in life.