Confidence: The Multi-Layered Definition

For a very long time I have advocated the need to teach emotional and social literacy to students.  I have talked about having t0 fragment all human traits into small steps so they are understandable by students in our classrooms and are therefore teachable.

In a recent corporate leadership seminar this specific topic of scaffolding skills for learners was raised.  As a group we talked about the need to support all managers in acquiring confidence in their skills and how this process is a never ending continuum.  Confidence in your own skills ebbs and flows as time marches forward depending on the things impacting our lives and the experiences we have.

To explicitly illustrate this point to the group I drew upon my experiences from the K-12 classrooms I have taught over the years, let’s do that here together.  I am creating working definitions of the word confidence here, not a dictionary definition.

In a Year 2 Classroom we might define Confidence like this:  Confidence is a belief in yourself, in the skills that you have and the things that you can do.  It is knowing that you can do things and not have people laugh at you, like painting a picture or doing a show-and-tell in the morning for the entire class.  Having confidence in yourself doesn’t mean not being nervous or scared of doing things, it means understanding that everyone gets nervous and scared at times but they are still willing to do the task.

This working definition in the Year 2 classroom is less relevant to the Principal running the school, or the Head of a Department.  These adults will need a much different definition and framework to get an understanding of Confidence. When defining Confidence for adults we can bring other traits into the definition and expect the adult mind to link the traits together creating a much deeper understanding of Confidence.

As a group we defined Confidence for adults as:  A long slow and steady accumulation of experience, knowledge and insight leading to self-awareness, self-respect and appreciation of others. A confident person can then apply these traits to new situations and challenges in the knowledge that whilst unnerving at times that they have the skills to get the desired outcome or are able to respond to the achieved outcome in a positive manner.

This second definition applies to the adults but would completely overwhelm a seven year old in Year 2.

You might even have a different definition of confidence, that’s great.  I am sure that your definition will be framed by the experiences, knowledge and insights you have developed across your career and your life to date.  You might even see that definition change as time marches on and your experiences deepen and broaden.

My ultimate point is human values and characters are very complex.  If ever you see students, or adults in your schools, exhibiting poor human traits remember that they need a series of small steps to allow them to understand the issues,  at this point in time, in their context and  in their world-view.

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