Thursday, March 30, 2017

Building Confidence

I have learned that I can do little in the classroom if my students do not have confidence in themselves.
From the very first day of school I work to build a class culture that breathes confidence, love, and support. I want my students to know that our classroom is a safe haven where they are believed in, always.

It has amazed me this month to see the changes in my students. The way they hold themselves as they speak, the way they talk to others, and the way they present their work. It is like a fire was lit.
I want to share 3 stories that happened TODAY that lets me know we are on the right track in building confidence in the classroom.

Before I share let me give you a little background on how the morning runs in our class:
In my classroom each day I have a morning meeting. We have a greeting, an activity, a share time, a message, and we always close with a song. The song I play every day is, If What I Am by

This song uses positive self-talk to get kids to understand they are important. “What I am is thoughtful, what I am is musical, what I am is smart, what I am is brave.” “Never going to quit, just keep getting stronger.” These are a few of the amazing lyrics that my students have been exposed to each day.

Every single morning, we sing this song, but we do something special in January through May to help build confidence. We pause the song, do a power stance, and repeat words of positive self-talk.
“I am smart.”
“I am brave.”
“I am beautiful.”
“I’ve got this day.”

This idea came from The Ted Talk, Your Body Languages Shapes Who You Are by Amy Cuddy

These 3 students TODAY showed the importance of teaching confidence:

Child One:
I have a student who has come a long way in our classroom. She used to be one of my last students to enter the room, she used to cry before class, and refused to come to the meeting place. She was nervous to be a part of the team and she withdrew from her classmates.

This child is completely different now.

Now she is one of the first students in the room, she joyfully comes down the hallway with a smile, and comes to the meeting place without being asked. She hugs her classmates and she has made many friends throughout this semester. This student has grown so much and you can tell she is happy. She is happy with her class and she is happy to be surrounded by a team.

Today as we were walking down the hallway she got out of line, held my hand, and told me, “Ms. Stanton don’t forget your power stance.” I thanked her and I assured her I would walk with confidence. She then let me know that she does this each day at her house. She continued to tell me that she looks in the mirror and tells herself, “I’m smart.” I never would have thought a kindergartner would tell me they did this on their own. It goes to show that if we teach our students how to be confident, they will learn and even teach others to be confident. We might not see it on day one, but it will come.

Child Two:
My second student is a joyful person who is very reserved. It has been hard for this student to open up. She has been finally coming out of her shell and sharing more of her life with us. I learned she is terrified of bees. Now that it is spring bees are everywhere on our playground. Two weeks ago this child who never shows nerves was screaming in fear of the bumblebees. Immediately when I saw how upset she was I walked over to her to calm her down. We then talked about her fear and I explained we would work through this together.

The next day we had a lesson on bees in the classroom. We talked about a bee’s purpose and their importance in our world. We then studied the difference between bees and wasps. We read a nonfiction story about bumblebees, which she took home. I then told the students about my own experience with them. The way I fought my fear was by naming it. As a class we named our fear and we called it Speedy. Every bumblebee from now on would have the name Speedy and we planned to wave to them as we walked past them. 
(note: we did talk about ways to be careful around all bees/wasps)

The next week my student was still very scared around the bees. Each time I saw her looking worried, I would go and talk to her, show her how the bees were curious, and have a friend come to support her. At one time I thought maybe this is a fear she will not fight through this year….and then it happened!

Today she proudly came over to me all by herself on the playground and said, “Mrs. Stanton I have something to tell you.” She then pulls my arms down to whisper in my ear, “I’m not scared of bees anymore.” She had a huge smile on her face, something she is well known for.
 I nearly jumped out of my skin! I am sure the other teachers thought I was crazy. I hugged her, told her how proud of her I was, listened to her story, and let her know we would be meeting as a class to talk about this accomplishment.

Child Three:
I have a third student who we have watched become strength in our classroom. In January I learned about One Word. I had my students create their One Word and make art to represent their word. The students took pictures with these words, placed them on the walls, and learned to explain their One Word to the world. Each day we say our One Word to remind ourselves of our goals.

This particular student has the word persevere. Since January he has worked to overcome his fear of public speaking in the classroom. This was something that he expressed was a challenge for him, but he told me a few weeks ago he wanted to persevere through it.

In our class whenever someone is speaking and they get nervous we always chant, You Can Do It three times. If they still do not speak we then chant their name three times. By this second chant they usually share. These chants have helped encourage my students to speak, but they have also helped each child  realize what they have to say IS important to us. Over time these chants have helped my students become more confident speakers.

This week I noticed he shined out in many speaking moments in the class, but it was today that shocked me. Once a week I try to get students to read books to the class to help them practice their reading, but also shine in front of an audience. At the end of the day today I asked if anyone would like to read their take home books to the class. I could not believe it when he jumped up and came to the class stage.

He didn’t even wait for me to call on him.

It was like he was ready for the moment before I even asked. He read the entire book to the class on the class stage. You could have heard a pin drop in the room because the kids were so enthralled with his presence.

And he truly did an outstanding job.

The class was so proud of him that two students actually ran up to get his autograph, how cool is that?!  What made it awesome though was he said under his breath after that, “I did it.” I looked at him and said, “You bet you did! Way to persevere!”
I believe the change in these 3 students is more than just 6 months of school under their belt. I believe it is from a class who fully supports each other and believes in one another. We can truly do anything when we feel we have a team behind us.

I believe these types of moments can happen for ALL of our students if we support, listen, and walk part of their journey with them. Showing our students each day that they are stronger then they believe helps them discover they ARE strong!

Many times these moments happen in our rooms, but they go unnoticed. We have to make a conscious choice to call these moments of confidence OUT to show our students what perseverance looks like, which gets us to confidence. It is through the struggle that we come out better than we were before. It is also through the struggle of others that we can learn to be great.
In order to get strong academic students, we first need confident students. We can create this if we are intentional in supporting them and getting them to believe in themselves.

They matter.

Let’s get our students to believe in themselves, so they can see their greatest potential.

Alana Stanton is a kindergarten teacher at Mulberry Elementary in Gwinnett County, Georgia. She has taught several grades over her 13 year career including K-3 literacy special, first grade, and second grade. Alana believes that relationships always come first in the classroom and the classroom should be a place where students thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. She currently writes for her blog, More Than A Lesson where she shares the stories of her classroom and her heart.