I grew up as part of the “Disney Generation”.
My peers and I were given this moniker by our elders for two reasons. One was for the many, MANY Disney movies we watched while growing up. The second was for the message these movies often conveyed. You probably know this already, but Disney movies tend to lean heavily on romantic themes like “Follow your dreams” or “Trust your heart”. They’re ideas we’ve carried with us into adulthood.
Now, I think my peers and I are fairly well-adjusted individuals, but apparently this view isn’t shared by everyone. Millennials (like me) have garnered a negative reputation over the years. We’re often accused of being lazy and entitled. In fact, Time Magazine once featured an entire study discussing it in vivid detail.
Dig a Little Deeper
To be honest, I stopped listening to these negative criticisms a long time ago. Old generations have been complaining about the younger since the dawn of time, so there’s really no point getting worked up over it. Still, as educators this does leave us with an important question. It’s our responsibility to promote healthy social-emotional growth in our classrooms. We want our students to be curious and confident, to chase after the things that matter to them. To know that yes, they are special!
But how do we build confidence without building arrogance? We don’t want to create a classroom of little narcissists, but we also don’t want to squash their idea of what’s possible. Guiding students to a healthy balance of idealism and self-awareness requires careful consideration. Thankfully, there are several key strategies already at our disposal.
Here are a few methods for encouraging your students and building confidence without arrogance.
- Broaden Their View: Every student has a talent. Some are good at math. Others are master spellers, while still more enjoy creating music. Recognizing these talents can be helpful, but we don’t want students to be defined by them. A student who builds an identity solely on their skill in math won’t embrace a growth mindset. Compliment them on their talents, but also encourage them to branch out and try new things. Show them that there is a big world to discover.
- Teach Them to Fail: Failure is an important part of the learning process. Rather than viewing it as a punishment, teach your students to see failure as an opportunity to learn. Offer feedback that is timely, specific, and actionable. You can also model positive failure for them by sharing your own experiences. When students understand the value of positive failure, they’re more likely to embrace a growth mindset.
- Give Them a Voice: All of us have things we care about. Unfortunately, many students lack the self-assurance to speak up. Help them take a stand for what they believe in by giving them opportunities to share or explore the issues that matter to them. Consider having students create a personal podcast or host a respectful debate where they can share their thoughts with classmates. Finding their voice is the first step to becoming a positive changemaker!
- Effort over Ability: Praising effort over ability can give students the motivation they need to persevere through a tough task. It teaches them to be resilient in the face of negative outcomes and lets them know they’re not alone in their learning. Best of all, they come to understand that education is not a straight line. Real learning will take you many different places before you reach your destination.
Wish Upon a Star
This has been a difficult year. There are a lot of problems in the world, and they’re not going to be solved with wishes and fairy dust. Still, I believe our classrooms can be a place where magic happens. When we dedicate our time and resource to building confidence in our students, we give them the tools they need to become exceptional human beings. And that is a very happy thought!