Outreach / Misc

Confidence (Part II): Building Teacher’s Confidence

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.


Ecosystems Have Histories

We recently had a visit from Emily Dilger, who is the lead of the Bay Area STEM Ecosystem project. Learning ecosystems are a way of thinking about the various experiences, environments, learners, and tools that exist across settings and contexts. As we gathered on several occasions to have conversations about the power of partnerships and… Continue Reading

AIMS Scholars Finishing the Race

When I started working for AIMS in 2014, we started the AIMS Scholars program. Now I know some of you reading this have received scholarship funds from the AIMS Foundation in the past (myself included), and therefore might wonder what I mean by “started.” During the 2014-2015 academic year, a public campaign was rolled out… Continue Reading

Math Awareness Month

Did you know that April is Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month? If not, you’re not alone. Much to my surprise, when I polled my friends, some of whom are math teachers, they didn’t know either. But they definitely knew about Read Across America Day on March 2nd. Why is that? Why is it that everything… Continue Reading

Spatial Learning in Early Childhood Development

In a previous blog post I talked about the importance of spatial learning in relationship to our interactions and perception of the surrounding world. Piaget outlined the importance of spatial perception in his 1948 book, The Child’s Conception of Space. In his book he discusses the importance of mental visualization to a child’s development as… Continue Reading

Systems Thinking

The members of the Research Division here at AIMS have been reading Humberto Maturana and Fracisco Varela’s book, The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding. These biologists describe how cognition and understanding emerge and are constructed out of single cellular organisms, and as they are coupled together in multi-cellular entities like humans.… Continue Reading

The Importance of Spatial Learning

Spatial learning was defined by Harvard educator Howard Gardner in 1983 as one of nine individual “parts of the whole” in his theory of multiple intelligences. His ideas have somewhat fallen out of favor over the years mostly due to misinterpretation of his theory. Teachers have always tended to place each student in one of… Continue Reading