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Something you might not know is that when you ask to join our private Beginning Teacher Talk FB group, I always ask you to answer a few questions so I can get to know you a little better and so I can learn more about what you really need as new teachers.
One of the things that I hear the most is that you want to feel as confident as I sound about my teaching in my podcast. So, that made me realize that this is a topic we should talk more about, because you need to know – I certainly didn’t always feel this way.
I didn’t start out knowing what to do or how to do things – I had to learn everything I’ve learned in exactly the same way that you are now – through trial and error. There is no shortcut. The only way to learn is to go through it. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s easy.
I know how hard it is to feel confident as a teacher. I’ve been there.
I’ve been through all of those horrible observation lessons where your administrator is analyzing every single move you make and every single word that comes out of your mouth – including all of those “ums” that we all have in our speech when we aren’t being super careful about it.
It’s all completely normal, but that doesn’t make us feel much better when we’re in it.
I know that as a new teacher, I spent a lot of my time feeling like a complete fraud.
No matter how many courses you take at university, and no matter how well prepared you think you are and want to be, there are always so many things that you feel inadequate about.
I felt like I had NO idea how to help my struggling readers when I first started teaching and in the first few years, I felt like I was failing my kids at every turn because I just didn’t know enough. But here’s the thing.
You can’t know everything. You won’t be competent in every area of the curriculum, even though you feel like you should be.
However, here’s the first secret to feeling confident as a new teacher. It’s quite simple:
The reason you feel like you don’t know everything is because you don’t.
And guess what? Nobody else thinks you should know everything, either.
Everybody else knows that you’re a new teacher.
Somehow, though, as the new teacher, we think that because we are now a teacher, we should somehow know everything. And that puts tremendous and unnecessary pressure on ourselves.
Instead of holding yourself to impossible standards that you then measure yourself up against and always come up short, why not try a different exercise?
Acknowledge, without all of that pressure and judgement, that this is an area that you need and want to grow in.
And then, just commit to the next step. What is the one next step you are going to take to help yourself to feel more competent in that area?
And don’t make it something huge like, “I’m going to get a masters in teaching reading.”
Make it something do-able, like I’m going to ask one of the other teachers at my grade level who seems really competent in teaching reading if I can bring her lunch on Friday and if she can take a bit of time to share with me what she does to help her struggling readers.
Something simple and actionable that will help you to take the next step in feeling more confident about teaching reading without all of those extra layers of putting pressure and stress and shoulding all over yourself.
So again, just acknowledge an area that you don’t feel confident in yet, and commit to just one step that you can take to start to gain the knowledge and expertise you need in that area.
Once you’ve done that first step, then think about, “Okay, so this is the main resource that my colleague uses to teach reading, so maybe I want to invest in that program, too.”
Each step will lead to the next, and before you know it, you will have taken the steps you need in order to start feeling more confident, but without all of that extra heaviness of putting pressure on yourself.
And this leads me to my next piece of advice for you. We’ve talked about this before on this podcast, but it’s important:
Now, this was a game-changer for me, because in the past, I had a bad habit of focusing on all of the things I’m not doing right instead of spending more time focused on everything that is actually going really well.
So, if you find yourself going to a dark place a lot... maybe you can’t stop obsessing over a bad review you got on one of your lessons, or maybe a colleague said something to you that is really bothering you, or maybe all of your time and attention and focus keeps going on that kid – the one who seems to suck all of your time and mental energy....
If you’re spending a lot of your time focusing on what you’re doing wrong, focusing on the negative, you’re going to have a pretty hard time feeling confident about yourself as a teacher.
It’s okay to pay some attention to things that go wrong so you can figure out pathways forward that will change the outcome more positively in the future, but when you start dwelling on something, that’s your negative mind taking over and that certainly isn’t going to help your confidence as a teacher, and it’s only going to result in you feeling depressed.
It’s really important to start paying attention to how much time you are giving to the negative things that happen in your classroom and in your life, and shifting that attention instead to all of the positive things you are doing well.
One way you can do that is by keeping a list of all of the lessons and activities that went well, and keep adding to it so you can see your list of great accomplishments.
You might even want to put this list in a folder on the side of your filing cabinet or somewhere that you can see it on a regular basis to remind you to keep adding to it.
You can also add anything that makes you happy and makes you smile, like when Jessica called you Mom or when little Avery gave you a hug and told you that he loved you.
All of those moments add up, and whenever you start feeling down on incompetent, take a look at that list and redirect your mind and your energy towards everything that is going well, everything that you makes you smile and grateful and honored to be doing this incredible work.
Your list is going to keep growing, and in spite of your best efforts to drag yourself down, you can’t deny all of the good that will start to accumulate and help to grow your confidence when you start focusing on all that is going well instead of all of your failures.
Another thing that I did for years was I kept a special bin of love notes from kids, positive cards and letters from parents, great reviews I wanted to keep of my lessons, and anything that made me feel better when I was down and lacking confidence.
The other piece of advice I have for you is something that I really wish I had learned to do much younger, and my hope is that you’ll learn this much earlier than I did, and that’s to:
Now, I know how hard that can be, but confidence actually comes from growing.
Confidence is a byproduct of learning to do something really well, from overcoming obstacles and learning to trust that you have what it takes to get to the next level – no matter what you’re doing.
It’s kind of interesting because just this past week as I was preparing to record this podcast, I was searching for something in one my external hard drives, and I found this file called “And to think….” It was basically like an online journal that I kept during the lowest points of doing my PhD.
Now, I was in my mid 30’s when I started my PhD, but I still hadn’t really learned how to accept criticism with grace and to let criticism be my teacher to become better.
I remember feeling so upset, as I read through these journal entries, because I was being rejected for awards that I was applying for and I was being rejected for journals I was trying to publish my research in.
I realized that what crushed me was not just the rejection itself, but what I told myself it meant about me. I wrote things like, “Well, I must not be good enough. Maybe I’m not cut out for this after all.”
I started saying all of these mean things to myself, instead of really paying attention to what that rejection could teach me.
The magic really started to happen, and you can see it over the years of completing my PhD, when I chose to start listening. To take myself out of my self-pity and start paying attention to what the reviewers were actually saying to me about how I could improve my scholarship application or journal article.
It didn’t happen overnight, but eventually, I learned to swallow my pride and my ego and to learn to let criticism be my teacher.
Now, here’s the thing: By the time I completed my dissertation, I had received every national reward I applied for. My entire dissertation had been published as a series of articles in different international, peer-reviewed publications, and I had earned more in scholarships than any other student in the Faculty of Education.
I am not telling you any of this to brag.
I am telling you this because I am still astonished and humbled by the power of learning to not only develop a thick skin, but by how powerful rejection and criticism were in teaching me to become better.... More than I could have ever dreamed for myself.
So, the next time you get that horrible review of your teaching, you get to choose how you respond. I’m not saying it’s easy. I know it’s not.
However, if you are willing to let criticism become your teacher, I promise you that you will not only become a better teacher, you will become more and more confident in your ability to become that teacher that your students will never forget.
Now you might be thinking, “Well all of that sounds great, Lori, but I have no idea how to do that.”
My answer is that you don’t have to know how to do all of that.
Again, you just need to get a little better at monitoring your response to criticism. Just take one step towards asking yourself what you can learn from that negative review, from what that parent said, from that lesson that didn’t go well. We can’t be great teachers if we aren’t great learners ourselves, and this is the first step towards doing that.
And finally, my last piece of advice for you to help you to develop a more confident and positive mindset is to:
Maybe you want to write some affirmations to help you on your way to feeling more confident in your teaching.
Even something as simple as saying to yourself,
“Today is going to be a wonderful day. My lessons are going to go really well. I am grateful that all of my students are going to be on task and focused and engaged, and I am honored to be doing this incredibly important work in the world.” Even something as simple as that can make a big difference towards feeling more positive about your day.
Also, I’m not sure if you’re into the woo-woo stuff or not, but I’m a big fan of visualization. Taking just five minutes when you first wake up each day to lay in bed with your eyes closed and visualizing your day going exactly the way you want it to can make a big difference in your energy as you start your day.
Whatever works for you, starting your day intentionally and positively is going to really help you to become more confident as a teacher. Small things like this matter – so does carefully choosing how you dress for your school day.
Choose an outfit that you not only feel comfortable in each day, but that projects an attitude and feeling of being a professional. It really matters. When a parent comes to speak with you, or your administrator comes to see you in your classroom and you are dressed professionally and you’ve taken some care with your appearance, it goes a long way towards their overall impression of you, and it helps you to feel more confident about who you are becoming as a teacher.
Even though I don’t really like the expression, “Fake it until you make it,” projecting an outward appearance of success and confidence will go a long way towards helping you to take on that identity and bring it into reality.
You might be thinking, “Who has time for that?” It’s actually easier than you think. You can take an hour on Sunday evening and lay out your outfits for the week if you don’t have time in the mornings, or plan your outfit each night before you go to bed.
Finally, when you get to school each day, why not start the day with an awesome playlist?
There is nothing like great music to help you to feel more confident and happy as you start the day.
If you don’t have a great, positive playlist, my READY for School Academy Members and I generated an awesome list of 38 of our favorites, complete with hot links, that you can get a copy of.
I’ve also created a great list of 2 minute positive conversation and writing starters that you might want to use with your students, and I’ve packaged it all as a fantastic freebie called “Your Monday Morning Inspiration Packet." Grab your FREE copy by clicking the link below!
So there you have it – those are some of my favorite ways to help you feel more confident as a new teacher. I hope this has been helpful for you.
Just remember to be patient with yourself and that just like your students, you are just learning, too.
Before I say goodbye for this week, I have another little gift for you. I know that money can be really tight on a new teacher’s salary especially, so I want to invite you to participate in our contest for a $25 Amazon gift card.
All you have to do is leave a raving review for the Beginning Teacher Talk podcast on Apple Podcasts and you could win a $25 Amazon gift card. So, just leave a great review for the Beginning Teacher Talk podcast by clicking here now and you could win an Amazon gift card from yours truly!
Also, be sure to tune in again next week because we are going to be talking about the 9 Things Students Want in Teacher. Some of these are probably not what you think, and may give you some amazing food for thought as we head into our holiday break and have some time to reflect on our teaching.
And remember, there's no need to struggle any longer with your classroom management. Just click the pic to get some relief and support now:
Dr. Lori Friesen | Beginning Teacher Mentor
Creator of the R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, Dr. Lori Friesen has mentored thousands of beginning teachers across the country through her workshops and courses. Host of the popular podcast, Beginning Teacher Talk, and creator of the innovative literacy program for 1st and 2nd grade, Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed, Dr. Lori is dedicated to serving educators and inspiring learners. Learn more at drlorifriesen.com and at howdogshelpkids.com.
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