Research has shown that the brain gives priority to our emotions and as educators, we have seen first-hand how our students’ emotions affect their perception of school. Emotion affects a child's self-confidence and self-confidence affects whether a child learns to read, write, and problem solve. Learning is not just a cognitive process, but we tend to treat it that way and slide over the fact that self-esteem can be a huge factor in our students’ success at school.
With that said - how do we as teachers work to build a young learner's self-confidence and promote a culture of continuous learning and growth?
- Strive to create an accepting classroom environment. The classroom should be a place of community where each individual has a voice and a choice in the learning day. Respect is modeled and expected.
- Provide a safe and supportive learning community. Children need to know they are safe physically and emotionally. We want our students to feel comfortable taking risks in their learning and know that mistakes are a part of growing.
- Expect responsible behavior. Work together with students to make them aware that they are responsible for what they do and say, as well as for their learning choices. No one should interfere with the learning of another.
- Build the philosophy that we are all learners. Children need to be aware that we all can learn and that we never want to stop learning. They also need to know that learning a new concept can be difficult, but with practice and support, skills will grow.
- Provide instruction that meets individual needs. The individual needs of our students should drive our planning and instruction. The curriculum is our guide, but we must deliver information in a variety of ways that inspire and meet the needs of our students. Know that each child will continue to develop and grow no matter what the acceptable "benchmark" might be at a given moment in time.
- Use authentic assessments. A standardized test does not always paint an accurate picture of a child's understanding of a specific concept. Use ongoing authentic assessments that show growth over time to evaluate and plan for future learning needs.
- Encourage interactive communication with parents. Parents and teachers are a team in a child's learning success. Make parents aware of concerns and accomplishments and invite them to share their insights about their child's progress in social, emotional, and academic areas.
As educators we want to prepare our students academically, but to do that we need to meet their emotional needs too. When we strive to make children feel safe and valued, we will hopefully help them develop the self-confidence to take learning risks that will promote growth - socially, emotionally, and academically. The goal is to create a lifelong love for learning and the worst enemy of learning is self-doubt.
"Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence." — Helen Keller