- The pandemic has caused many veteran teachers to feel like they are experiencing their first year all over again.
- Confidence soars when you are prepared and when you surround yourself with people who create a safe space for you to take risks.
- Risk-taking and asking for help will lead to gaining the confidence you seek.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “fake it ‘til ya make it.” In fact, many of us have probably used it before. It’s the idea that even if you don’t know what you’re doing, if you just act like you do, you’ll get through it, and probably with flying colors.
But for all of us who have used the phrase sparingly and in the context of a situation in which we truly don’t know what we’re doing, how many of us have used it more often than we’d like to admit?
Sadly, many of us find ourselves in situations in which we lack the confidence to be successful.
This has always been the case, but it’s become increasingly common since the onset of COVID-19 and distance learning. Perhaps you were a confident classroom teacher, a seasoned veteran, at this time last year. But then COVID-19 hit and you were thrown into a remote learning environment with e-learning programs you’d never used before; your confidence took a nosedive. You’re not alone if this was the case. So many veteran teachers with whom I work have expressed this very thing. “I feel like a first-year teacher all over again.”
When I think back to the first few years of my teaching career, I was living the “fake it ‘til ya make it” motto. Every day I stood in front of my students, confident on the outside, but scared as hell on the inside. I did my best to hide my cards; it wouldn’t have behooved me to let them know I was carrying the Joker. Regardless, I pushed through the lack of confidence, and with time, the Joker was long gone; I was carrying the Queen of Hearts.Living your why is when you are most confident because you are being YOU. Click To Tweet
How common is the struggle to find confidence?
How many educators feel like they’re just flying by the seat of their pants? And how many of us may be confident with our jobs, but struggle with confidence elsewhere? When I think about the most important lessons we can teach students, confidence is at the top of the list. It’s an aspect of self that students need in order to find success in life. But regardless of this, students are unlikely to ever learn confidence within the context of our curriculums.
Dr. Matthew X. Joseph (@MatthewXJoseph) and I were struck by the power of this realization. We were eager to have a broader discussion about confidence in an effort to learn more about the questions we had. Thanks to Coach Craig Shapiro (@Shapiro_WTHS), we took over the #teachpos chat on January 24, 2021 and asked educators what made them confident, what didn’t, and how they could help others find it in themselves. This is what we learned.
What about a situation makes us lack confidence?
Confidence is a funny thing. There are times when you feel very confident and times when you don’t. So what is it about a situation that makes you feel more or less confident? Educators typically have control over their classrooms, so it’s no surprise that situations with uncertainty kill our confidence.
If you’re driven to succeed, you must be prepared. Think of all those hours you put into planning lessons or preparing for exams that got you to where you are today. Many educators lack confidence when they feel unprepared and therefore, believe they might fail.
Another confidence buzzkill is history. If you find yourself in a situation that is very familiar to one in which you’ve failed before, it’s unlikely you’ll be confident now. It’s hard to criticize these emotions; they make perfect sense.
Perhaps it’s not a perspective you can consider in the moment, but the ability to recognize the existence of such a dynamic might help separate the emotions and gain the confidence you need the second time around.
While you can control some of the things that reduce confidence (preparedness and historical association), there is one very influential factor that is completely out of your control: the audience. For many educators, the specific audience and their personality play a huge role in how confident you are. If the audience includes experts on what you’re presenting, is made up of your superiors, or is negative and judgmental, your confidence doesn’t stand a chance. And if the audience isn’t listening, one participant noted, confidence is very hard to come by.
In what situations are we the most confident?
As difficult as it can be to find confidence in some situations, there are environments in which you can thrive. When you’re prepared or presenting to individuals who are not peers or superiors—students, for example—you’re likely to be much more confident. Confidence also soars when you’re with people who believe in you, support your work, and encourage your potential.
But for some, it’s less about being with people who support you and more about being with people who create a safe space for you to take risks. “When I fall,” a participant said, “I need to trust that the audience is there to pick me back up.” This supports the very idea behind being able to take a risk: they don’t just turn out right because you did it right, they often turn out right because you were given a space to try.
While there are characteristics to situations in which you feel confident, the most powerful admission of confidence was when participants said confidence comes when they’re chasing their passions, heart, and soul. Living your why is when you are most confident because you are being YOU.
What you can do to gain confidence and help others do the same.
While confidence inevitably has to come from within, there are things you can do to help promote its growth. It’s easy to say that you need to believe in yourself and respect your own work rather than waiting for others, but there are more tangible things you can do to help yourself get there.
Risk-taking is essential. You can’t grow confidence if you don’t challenge yourself. Risks don’t need to be grandiose; they should be within reason. But if you don’t take the risk in the first place, you’re never going to prove to yourself that you can succeed.
In order to take the risk, you have to trust yourself and practice being uncomfortable. When you do this, it doesn’t mean that you have to flounder alone if you start to struggle.
Asking for help will likely provide you with the additional support you need to accomplish a task and gain the confidence you seek. Too often, asking for help is seen as a weakness. But really, it’s a strategy to support your own growth, both professionally and emotionally. The more you ask for help, the more confident you will become.[scroll down to keep reading]
More important than all the risks you can take, however, is the need to come to the realization that positivity is contagious and perfection is not real.
Both of these will help you become more confident with what you know and are capable of achieving. In fact, being positive and letting others know that perfection is unattainable are two ways you can encourage confidence in others.
In addition to modeling true confidence and encouraging others, we can listen. Listen to what others tell you about how they’re feeling, their fears, and their securities. Listen to what they are telling you during a presentation; let them be the expert. And listen to their questions while answering them truthfully; we don’t need to create false confidence in others.
We are all living through unprecedented times. One of the many victims of this pandemic is our confidence. The more we are forced to pivot, the less confident we become. It’s important to know that we are all in the same boat, struggling with finding confidence in our craft in an environment we’ve never experienced.
What we need to remember is that good teaching is still good teaching even from a distance. Flexibility, compassion, authenticity, and relationships are still at the heart of our work and can be established through a computer screen. Is it ideal? Of course not. But confidence wouldn’t need to be a conversation if we were always in our ideal circumstance, would it?
About Christine Ravesi-Weinstein
Christine Ravesi-Weinstein is an avid writer and educator and is passionate about bridging the two with her advocacy for mental health. She currently serves as a high school Assistant Principal and previously worked as a high school science department chair for four years and classroom teacher for 15 years. Chistine is a Times 10 author and her first book, Anxious, is scheduled for publication in March 2020. Follow her on Twitter @RavesiWeinstein, on YouTube at The Runner’s High, read her other work here, and about her organization at http://www.runningfromanxiety.org; @ThinkRunFight.