How Can We Build Student Confidence?

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February 19, 2024

This is the sixth in a series of guest blogs by the 2023-24 Michigan Regional Teachers of the Year. Jaime Hilaski is a mathematics teacher at Schoolcraft Junior-Senior High School in Schoolcraft Community Schools.

“Self-confidence”: Confidence in oneself and one’s powers and abilities (Merriam-Webster, n.d.). When referring to student confidence in this blog post, it shall mean a student’s belief that they are capable of achieving more and challenging themselves with success.

We, as educators, have the unique opportunity to help our students build their self-confidence within our classrooms. Imagine the impact we could make if we focused on ways to improve our students’ self-awareness and how they view themselves. Could improving their positive self-talk, their ability to make decisions in their learning, and allowing them opportunities to take risks improve the student’s confidence level? I believe it could.

Every day in our classrooms, our students are a part of our class community. We want them to feel included and welcome in our space. We want them to challenge themselves and grow as much as possible in the time we have with them.

Being a teacher is one of the most fulfilling careers out there. We help our kids soak up the content, but it is so much more than that. We can help them grow as an individual and truly become the best version of themselves. Some ways we can do that is by incorporating intentional activities focused on social emotional learning, specifically self-awareness.

Social-emotional learning is “the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”* Social-emotional learning is an important part of human growth and development, allowing for equitable opportunities for students’ needs and providing them with opportunities to grow in their social, emotional, and academic skills.*

Focusing on self-awareness activities can help our youth acknowledge who they are, how they feel, and identify growth areas which in turn can help them build their self-confidence.

Adding in times for self-reflection and goal setting are two ways to help students practice self-awareness. In an elementary setting this could look like:
  • Journal prompts centered around affirmations and identifying strengths.
  • Have students write a list of self-compliments.
  • Allow students the opportunity to make a vision board of what they hope to achieve in their future.
  • Create a self-collage of words and pictures that showcase who they are.
In a secondary classroom, it may look like:
  • Having more choice in how they show their understanding. This allows each student to show their strengths and feel confident when delivering their knowledge of a particular subject.
  • Check-in questions focused on identifying who they are (emotions, strengths, growth areas, goals, etc.).
  • Asking open ended reflection questions after a lesson, so students can process and share their experience and understanding of the lesson, giving them a voice in the classroom.
  • Have each student set their own S.M.A.R.T. goals each marking period. S.M.A.R.T. goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound.
When we offer a variety of opportunities for students to take the time to reflect on who they are and their strengths, we are helping provide them time to build their confidence and find their voice. Many of the examples above can be modified to fit the proper grade level and be tweaked to fit your current lesson.

The content is important and a huge part of our students’ learning; however, if we allow them the chance to grow in their soft skills as well, we are working toward teaching the whole child. We are acknowledging that every student learns differently and is a unique individual. We are giving them the time to reflect and grow. Finally, we are showing them that we genuinely care about who they are and not just focusing on satisfying the content side of our classrooms.

*Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL)(2020). Fundamentals of sel. CASEL.