In my last blog, I compared the idea of developing the confidence in learning how to drive against the confidence needed to become a successful teacher in a classroom. In the second post in this series, I would like us to explore the idea of teacher confidence a bit further.
Individual confidence is something that is a necessity and an essential component for a teacher to become effective in the classroom. Unfortunately, sometimes confidence is hard to come by in a continuing changing educational landscape. Changing a grade level, a new principal, new colleagues, or a new classroom all serve to keep an individual teacher “off balance” in their professional environment. Not surprisingly confidence is one of those intrinsic components that a teacher cannot fake, but he or she can develop with time and experience, given the right environment. Unfortunately, there is not a specific formula for making this happen. Just like our students, each teacher is unique and brings different talents, experiences, and a variety of subject-specific confidence levels to the classroom. Students are very sensitive to the level of confidence that a teacher exhibits and often draws their cue based on a teacher’s current attitude. To be effective in a classroom, a teacher needs to exude confidence externally but also needs to feel that confidence internally as well. The question then boils down to what is the best way to build confidence in a teacher over time?
There are many ways to begin to build confidence in a teacher, but one of the most important steps in building teacher confidence is to provide a mentor that can walk alongside someone new to the profession. We are “social beings,” no one more so than a teacher. A good mentor forms a close, long-term relationship with a new teacher and can provide a safe place to ask advice, provide feedback, and share best practices. A veteran teacher is more than a model of “good practice” but is someone that can share both successes and failures. For a new teacher, this is extremely important in building self-confidence. Learning to be a teacher is far from a “linear path” but has many unique twists and turns in the road to success. A good relationship with a mentor will not necessarily smooth over the bumpy road but will shine a light on the path and show a new teacher where to step and build their professional confidence over time. Hopefully, a dynamic mentorship program at a school will also “pay it forward” giving credence to the idea that good mentors build new mentors that can affect generations of teachers to come. While a teacher’s individual confidence can be constructed in isolation over time, it is far better to think of confidence building in education as an active social construct where we lean on each other to become better teachers together.