Let me set the scene:
You are sitting in a large gathering with about a hundred other people. Some of the people in the crowd you know very well, but most of them are strangers. Now imagine an energetic speaker gets up in front and starts a chant and he wants you to chant along. Seriously, imagine you are in the room and this happens:
When I say Dream… You say Big!
Dream! Big! Dream! Big!
When I say Reach… You say High!
Reach! High! Reach! High!
When I say Soar… You say Fly!
Soar! Fly! Soar! Fly!
When I say Why… You say Not!
Why! Not! Why! Not!
How would that make you feel? Would you be all in and filled with energy? Would you try and match the speaker’s enthusiasm and volume? Would you get right up on your feet and join in? Would you throw all inhibition to the wind?
Would you immediately feel uncomfortable? Would you be filled with anxiety?
“Does he expect me to be involved?”
“Do I have to do this?”
Would your posture change? Maybe you’d sit deeper in your seat? Would you look around and watch others in seclusion? Maybe this would take you back to specific uncomfortable times in your life. Maybe instances of regret would resurface from your past.
These emotional and physical reactions all stem from a crucially important attribute that is embedded within us all.
Confidence is the launch pad for just about every successful skill and habit we possess. Confidence is defined as, “a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.” Confidence is the result of our interactions with others all throughout our lives. Besides parents and family, the most powerful impact on the cultivation or smothering of confidence happens within our schools. Teachers and schools have the ability to develop confidence within children like very few other people.
In the field of Education, there is a popular idea that focuses on the 4 C’s of the 21st Century Learner:
- Communication — Sharing thoughts, questions, ideas, and solutions
- Collaboration — Working together to reach a goal — putting talent, expertise, and smarts to work
- Critical Thinking — Looking at problems in a new way, linking learning across subjects and disciplines
- Creativity — Trying new approaches to get things done equals innovation and invention
In my first post of this series, Something’s Missing, I explain in detail those 4 C’s and how they fit into our schools.
I thoroughly believe in the importance of the 4 C’s of a 21st Century Learner. As a matter of fact, I believe they are crucial to improving the development of our future leaders. However, there is another C that students must possess in order to truly practice the 4 C’s at a level that approaches their potential.
YOU GOT IT. THAT C IS CONFIDENCE.
It is not a word to take lightly. It is not a word to simply lump in with character development. It is not a word that we can simply say you are either born with or without. It is a word that Education can build its foundation upon. It is a word that every other attribute must stem from in order to truly be ingrained in a person’s character.
Think about it. Does confidence play a role in the 4 C’s?
HOW ABOUT CONFIDENCE AND COLLABORATION?
Without confidence, the student will be timid and will not take the risk to speak his or her mind while collaborating with peers. They will be afraid of presenting an idea that might fail. A confident student will be steadfast in their ideas and contributions. Confidence breeds the ability to take risks in collaborative settings.
HOW ABOUT CONFIDENCE AND COMMUNICATION?
The ability to effectively engage an audience requires a high level of confidence. A student who lacks confidence when trying to communicate will speak lightly, slouch and look down, shuffle and fidget, and their message will be lost. Confidence generates the courage within you to raise your head and straighten your posture. Confidence bridges the gap between your spoken word and your body language.
HOW ABOUT CONFIDENCE AND CRITICAL THINKING?
In order to think critically you must first believe that you have the ability to do so. You must also be willing to risk saying or doing something that is against the norm in order to find the outcome that is needed. Critical thinking requires trying things that may fail, and learning from those experiences to continue to think critically. A confident person understands the value of failure as a lesson and they can truly embrace the struggle.
HOW ABOUT CONFIDENCE AND CREATIVITY?
Creativity stems from the open mindedness of trying new and different approaches. It takes confidence to venture into uncharted territories and explore the unknown. Confidence is a catalyst for exploration and the ability to explore is crucial to creativity’s existence.
See what I mean?
CONFIDENCE IS EVERYTHING.
It is the foundation and the tool belt. Since it is so important and valuable, we need to be intentional about developing it and pushing it to grow. We need to drastically SHIFT our thinking in the field of human growth. We need to SHIFT our priorities around Confidence.
If we continue to send young adults into the workplace unequipped for the pace of this ever-changing world, we are doing them a huge disservice. We need to cultivate innovative leaders who will ultimately shape our future. The SHIFT to confidence must strive to send innovators into the world. Innovators are born from kids that possess the 4 C’s and that development starts with confidence!
In my classroom, confidence is everything.
From the very first moment I meet each child, I make a point of shaking their hand and looking them directly in the eye as they speak. Kids quickly learn that I value what they have to say. When a student speaks in my class, he or she must stand up and every set of eyes in the classroom is required to be on them. This makes the student speaking feel as though every word out of their mouth is the most important word to every person in that room. If what they say is powerful and positive, the room will celebrate that moment with a quick cheer and applause. If what they say was a complete fail, but they had the courage to take a risk, we celebrate that risk as well. We are not celebrating a poor effort; we are embracing the courage to try. That builds confidence and an eagerness to try more. The mantra for my class is always, “embrace the struggle.” Those words are not just a catch phrase to tell kids they’re about to go through a very hard year. They are words to inspire children to learn to love the struggle. In my classroom, we seek out the struggle, and we use that struggle as fuel to build the fire that creates confident children.
When you SHIFT your priority to building confidence in kids, and you develop an environment where taking risks is applauded, you create a classroom where kids find value in tackling obstacles and struggle. Kids start coming to school with a confidence that makes them eager for new challenges!
Let’s start the SHIFT like this: From the moment our students reach our classrooms, let’s teach them to seek the best version of themselves. Teach them to be confident and value taking risks to conquer obstacles. Teach confidence and then teach the 4 C’s.
What would teachers be able to accomplish if students embraced struggle, were passionate about success, and eager to let their inner strengths be seen and shared? Confidence is the most valuable C. It allows potential in every other C to rise. Let’s SHIFT our mindsets to bring developing confidence to the forefront. What would our educational system look like if all decisions were based on building confidence because we knew it was the catalyst for greatness within ALL kids?
I would love to hear your beliefs and feedback pertaining to this post. I greatly value all opinions and arguments. Engage in the comments and help continue this discussion. I look forward to what you all have to say.
I will see you next week for our Tuesday’s with Tal post on the next C…