Teacher Confidence

Teaching is a profession, a craft, and an art. Have confidence in yourself and your abilities.

Technically it is a show, not a movie. But “Homer at the Bat” is a classic Simpsons episode. Even though Homer is having an MVP caliber season playing for the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant softball team, manger/boss Mr. Burns decides to bring in ringers to ensure the team wins him a championship.

Major League Baseball star Darryl Strawberry is brought in to take over Homer’s position in right field. In this short scene, Homer meets Darryl for the first time. Even though Darryl has never met Homer before, he is certain he is a better baseball player.

For being an obscure scene, it is one I remember frequently. Conversations around new initiatives, professional development, innovative teaching practices, and increased school performance are commonplace when I meet with other principals, superintendents, and district level leaders. It is easy to get overwhelmed listening to the successes of colleagues or expectations placed upon you by your employers. It is at these times I remember the line, “Well, I never met you, but……yes.”

Although that line may come off as cocky or arrogant, I believe it speaks to the confidence necessary to be a strong educator. I trust in my abilities as a school principal. I do not get intimidated listening to the achievements of others. I am confident in the work our school is doing to support all students. Additionally, when schools are asked to implement a new program, I know that we can do it, because we have the culture that embraces challenges and the logistics to make it happen.

I do not believe that I am better than you, but I know that I am capable.

In the classroom, a lack of confidence can impact a teacher in a variety of ways. Students recognize and take advantage of a teacher who lacks trust in himself. Parents can become uncertain with a teacher who is not firm in his response to questions. Finally, school improvement will suffer if a team member does not participate in due to insecurity in his ideas and overall teaching ability.

One of the reasons new teachers struggle is because they lack the confidence of experienced teachers. Students are savvy. They easily sense a teacher who questions their ability to manage a class, create a lesson, and teach a lesson. When students feed off teacher insecurities, those insecurities grow larger. However, a teacher who is confident in their choices is able to get the most out of their students, because the students trust the leadership of the teacher.

I would like to say parents are different than their children, but in some cases they exhibit the same behavior. As a principal, I see parents question discipline, grading, and instruction with younger teachers far more frequently than with veteran teachers. Parents believe that because newer teachers lack confidence, they can shape the classroom, instruction, or gradebook to best accommodate their child. Confident teachers are able to mitigate parents seeking to “work” the system. They know their subject matter, they have proved their classroom management model, and their grading practices are equitable and reflect student mastery.

Schools are an assortment of smaller teams. Departments, grade levels, interdisciplinary teams, and professional learning teams are just a few of the subgroups that make-up a school. The collaboration in these teams drive the culture and instructional practices for the school. When a teacher lacks confidence they are unable to share their thoughts and ideas with these leadership teams. The result is that they can become passive players at school. They end up teaching lessons they did not design and enforcing rules they do not agree with. The confident teachers are the change agents for schools. The support they garner from peers allows them to enact change. They are active players and their confidence builds, because they see the impact of their decisions and ideas across the school.

Confidence has a snowball effect. The more you have/exude, the more it grows. Teachers choose the best profession in the world so that they can make a positive difference in the lives of students. Have confidence in your abilities. When a new challenge comes your way you can say, “Well I [may have] never [done it] before, but………yes.”

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