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On Confidence...

Updated: Feb 22, 2021

I sometimes hear folks say of me that I exude confidence. While it’s not always complimentary, it’s worth sharing that it has less to do with my ‘belief’ in myself as it does with my underlying understanding of the act of learning and how much that depends on one’s environment.

Several years ago, growth mindset was very popular among numerous organizations, but it really took hold in schools. In essence, the research identified that a fixed mindset made it difficult for folks to orient themselves towards the possibilities of positive change if they more firmly held beliefs about ability that were more nature than nurture. This is oversimplification, but a basic understanding is more than enough to unpack the supposed ‘confidence,’ many see in me.

We learn in spite of ourselves - and by ‘we’ I mean humans. Our environments give us constant and varied feedback on what is and is not possible, and thus a change in environment presents new possibilities. Still, not enough time and energy is dedicated to the agency we have to curate those environments.

For a young child, they may determine they want different toys, books, clothes, music or even food. Using their five senses they are quite literally determining what stimuli are providing them the types of information that more aptly constructs their reality.

Youth in general make this abundantly clear as they use disengagement as protest while trying on the different realities that adults convey to them in classrooms, their homes and other institutional spaces. As they construct environments that allow for the narratives that better reflect who they want to be, they more fully self-actualize having curated spaces that align with their desired futures.

As for me, I cannot be ashamed or punish myself for any new environment to which I am being exposed be it academic, social or otherwise. What I can do in said space is a matter of exposure to the environment, the extent to which I’d like to belong there, and the narratives I reinforce by selecting what I’ll prolong my exposure to.

If you’re working on your confidence or wanting for your students to feel like members of their ________ community (math, class, virtual - fill in the blank accordingly), remember to ask yourself the following:

  • Have they had the time to engage with the new environment?

  • Are they empowered to curate that environment to the extent that it furthers their self-determined narrative?

  • Is the environment static or alive? Living environments evolve and require active input to thrive and reflect its membership.

The environment one creates says a lot about them, but it should say equally as much about its full membership. So when you question your students’ confidence within a learning environment you’ve curated, ask yourself - to what extent have I made that possible?

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Teresa Leggard
Teresa Leggard
Oct 04, 2020

Am I so busy trying to be a 'confident' instructor that I'm railroading my way through and not making enough space for my students? This definitely gives me something to think about.

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