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Top 10 Ways to Build Your Students’ Confidence

Geri McClymont holds an MEd and has taught various subjects to students in grades K-12 for over twenty years.

A confident student is a successful student.

A confident student is a successful student.

Confidence Breeds Success

One of the greatest gifts we can give our students is to instill in them a strong sense of confidence. In doing this, we enable them to be higher achievers. Confidence breeds success. If students believe they can succeed, they will succeed.

As teachers, we're in a highly strategic position to instill confidence in our students as we teach and interact with them every day!

Strategies to Build Your Students' Confidence

  1. Model confidence.
  2. Be prepared to teach.
  3. Accept mistakes with grace.
  4. Praise and encourage your students.
  5. Challenge them academically.
  6. Allow your students many opportunities for success.
  7. Foster creativity in the classroom.
  8. Affirm your students.
  9. Give them jobs.
  10. Teach them organization skills.

Being confident doesn’t mean you're arrogant or trying to project perfection. It simply means you're secure in who you are and unafraid to acknowledge that you don’t have all the answers.

— Author

Model self-confidence in your everyday interactions with staff and students.

Model self-confidence in your everyday interactions with staff and students.

1. Model Confidence

Students will often reflect the behaviors modeled to them. In other words, they'll become like you. So how you present yourself matters.

Look Polished

Put yourself together nicely in the morning, including clothes, hair, and makeup—even if it’s just mascara and lipstick.

Don't dress to impress. Just dress in a way that makes you feel good about yourself.

Taking those few extra minutes to look polished will pump your confidence. It also communicates to your students that you take pride in yourself and in your job as a teacher.

Walk Tall

How you walk and carry yourself speaks volumes about your self-image.

Walk as if you are balancing a book on your head—long neck, straight back. You'll discover that just by walking this way, you will feel confident.

Self Care

As teachers, we're often so focused on meeting our students' needs, that we neglect to take care of ourselves.

Eat a healthy diet and be sure to pack nutritious lunches and snacks for school. Exercise regularly, even if it's a brisk walk every evening. Get sufficient rest and try to go to bed at the same time each night.

These habits will help you feel and look your best in the classroom.

Social Interactions

The interactions we engage in outside of work matter. It’s critical that you limit the time you spend with toxic people or with people who generally bring you down. Spend time with people you enjoy!

How you interact with your colleagues is also important. Are you intimidated by them or can you hold your own ground? How you speak over the phone, the way you react when somebody comes to your room unannounced, how you answer the office staff over the intercom—all of these little interactions are significant.

Remember that your students are watching you.

Having all your ducks in line before you enter the classroom enables you to teach with confidence.

Having all your ducks in line before you enter the classroom enables you to teach with confidence.

2. Be Prepared to Teach

Be sure to have your lesson plans laid out before you enter the classroom. Having your ducks in line gives you peace of mind and enables you to be confident as you present your lessons.

If you’re unprepared to teach, you can’t model confidence because you're scrambling around trying to get your act together.

Being prepared to teach also communicates to your students that they are important to you. This gives them confidence.

When you teach, teach with conviction. This means that you believe the content you teach is important. If you're not persuaded that it matters one iota for your students to learn what you're teaching them, you'll have a hard time keeping your students engaged in your lesson.

Conversely, if you're persuaded that what you teach your students is going to help them be successful academically and, more importantly, in the real world, then you will have a much easier time engaging your students!

How to Be Prepared to Teach:

  • Believe that what you teach is important.
  • Tell your students how the content you teach will help them in real life.
  • Have your lesson plans written out and ready to implement.
  • Have all necessary materials in line for your lessons.
  • Make sure your technology equipment is working.
  • Ensure that links to websites and video clips are not broken.
  • Maintain an orderly desk.
  • Keep all supplies and resources where they belong in the classroom.
It's always okay to make mistakes!

It's always okay to make mistakes!

3. Accept Mistakes with Grace

A teacher who belittles or humiliates their students when they make mistakes is destroying their self-confidence. It’s crucial that you model to your students that making errors is a normal part of the learning process and nothing to be ashamed of.

The best way to communicate this is by the way you react when you yourself make blunders in the classroom.

When you make an error, make it a non-issue. Acknowledge it, correct it, and move on.

Talk about missteps you've made in your past and what you learned from them. It’s important for students to know that even adults aren't perfect.

Accept your students’ mistakes with grace. Just take them in stride as a natural part of learning.

Never tolerate a student snickering or laughing when a classmate makes a flub. Talk to the student after class and make sure he or she understands why this is unacceptable and not the culture of your classroom.

Affirm a unique talent or skill you notice in your student. Students thrive on specific words of praise and encouragement!

Affirm a unique talent or skill you notice in your student. Students thrive on specific words of praise and encouragement!

4. Praise and Encourage Your Students.

When your students do something well or you catch them doing something positive, let them know. Replace general words of praise and encouragement such as “good job” or “great work" with specific words of affirmation.

Some Specific Words of Affirmation:

  • Excellent choice of words in this sentence!
  • Very vivid description of the main character!
  • What a unique drawing—I like your color contrast!
  • What an engaging opening paragraph!
  • Powerful personification here!
  • I noticed your kindness towards Maria in class today.
  • Suspenseful cliffhanger!
  • It was very thoughtful of you to help Carlos when he dropped his binder.

When you mark your students' work, use green or another color ink besides red (red seems so punitive), and when offering written feedback on their papers, always precede suggestions for improvement with words of affirmation for what they did well.

Giving your students challenging assignments will boost their confidence.

Giving your students challenging assignments will boost their confidence.

5. Challenge Your Students Academically

Stretch Them Intellectually

When you give students work that stretches them intellectually, forcing them to think at a deeper level or to think outside the box, you're communicating to them that you believe they're up to the task. This boosts their self-confidence.

Students will usually rise to meet our expectations. If we don’t think they can learn much, they likely won’t. If we think they can learn a great deal, they likely will.

Our nonverbal language often speaks louder than words. Students pick up on our attitudes and beliefs very quickly. We don’t have to verbalize that we think they're incapable of performing work beyond a certain level. By not challenging them, not giving them higher-level work, we're already communicating that.

Teach Vocabulary

Another way to challenge your students academically is to teach them vocabulary. Broadening students' vocabulary banks increases their reading comprehension which directly impacts how much content they learn in class.

Make it a habit to pre-teach vocabulary before beginning a new text. You will equip your students for a successful and more enjoyable reading experience, and boost their confidence in the process!

No kid is unsmart. Every kid's a genius at something. Our job is to find it. And then encourage it.

— Robin Sharma

If students don't perform well on a test, consider reteaching the concept in a different way so that your students have another opportunity to succeed.

If students don't perform well on a test, consider reteaching the concept in a different way so that your students have another opportunity to succeed.

6. Allow Your Students Many Opportunities for Success

It’s important to allow your students many opportunities for success in the classroom. If all they experience is failure, they'll never know what they're capable of.

If you have English language learners in your class, be intentional about using effective strategies for English language learners. Most of these strategies are also beneficial for non-English learners, so using them is a win-win for all students!

If a student does poorly on an assignment or assessment, consider if the concept needs to be retaught. This is particularly the case if most students in the class scored low on it.

Reteach the topic in a different way, provide more opportunities for practice, and allow your students to redo the assignment or retake the assessment, thereby offering them another opportunity for success.

Consider if the presentation or handout needs to be altered. For example, perhaps the layout was too busy and needs to be simplified.

When placing students in pairs or groups for class projects or activities, build on their strengths. For example, if a student is a natural leader, allow him to practice his leadership skills by placing him in a group of students who have other strengths; don’t place three natural leaders in the same group.

Allowing your students to express themselves through art projects is a fun way to build their confidence.

Allowing your students to express themselves through art projects is a fun way to build their confidence.

7. Foster Creativity in the Classroom

Allow your students to express their creativity in the classroom. This is especially important for your more introverted students who tend to be more artistic. Incorporate creativity as a regular part of class assignments, activities and projects.

Your students will experience a huge boost of confidence when they're given the freedom to express themselves creatively! This is because their creativity is a great part of who they are, so in allowing them to express it, you are essentially allowing them to be true to themselves.

Ways to Foster Creativity in the Classroom:

Build your students' confidence by allowing them to:

  • create posters and flyers
  • create brochures
  • paint
  • draw
  • keep a writing journal
  • create PowerPoint presentations on any given topic
  • plan and perform plays

Break the mold and have them do something crazy creative, like fake graffiti on a huge piece of bulletin board paper to express their opinions on a topic you're debating in class.

Allow them to each draw a picture or write phrases or words on the paper to express their unique perspectives on the issue, and ask them to initial or sign their name beside their work. Display the graffiti paper in the classroom or hallway.

A significant way to affirm your students is to value what they write in their writing journals.

A significant way to affirm your students is to value what they write in their writing journals.

8. Affirm Your Students

By affirming your students, I am referring to listening to them, respecting them, and accepting them as they are in terms of their individual personalities and interests.

This means listening to them attentively during class discussions and encouraging the rest of your class to do the same.

It also refers to the simple dialogue you have with your students between classes. Do your students feel like they matter as individuals when they interact with you?

Affirming your students includes valuing what they have to say in their writing journals and in creative writing activities they do in your class. Remember that students’ writing is a reflection of who they are, so be sensitive in how you respond to their work.

This is especially important for your quieter students as well as for special education students and English language learners, as many of these students are more vulnerable to criticism.

Allow students to read their journal entries aloud in class on a voluntary basis, and always affirm their writing. Never force your shy students to read aloud if they don't want to.

Honor your introverts as much as you do your extroverts. When you plan class projects and activities, allow students to sometimes work independently if they so choose.

When you affirm your students by listening, respecting, and accepting them as they are, you communicate to them that they are unique and have something special to offer the world. This gives them confidence.

Giving your students jobs in the classroom helps boost their self-confidence.

Giving your students jobs in the classroom helps boost their self-confidence.

9. Give Your Students Jobs

When you give a student a job, you give him the opportunity to be successful which will boost his confidence.

Entrusting students with responsibilities such as assigning them roles in the classroom communicates to them that you believe in them and trust them.

Moreover, when they complete the job, they receive a second boost of confidence: Besides knowing they've met your expectations, more importantly, they know they've been successful in completing the task they've been entrusted with.

Some Class Helper Roles:

  • distribute paper and supplies
  • collect papers and supplies
  • hand out texts
  • collect texts
  • messenger (takes notes to office, etc.)
  • sharpen pencils
  • erase boards
Being organized helps students be confident.

Being organized helps students be confident.

10. Teach Your Students How to Be Organized

The connection between organization and confidence is often overlooked in school.

When students are organized, they're more likely to receive the boost of confidence that comes with completing and turning in their assignments on time, as well as for hopefully earning high scores for their work.

This is because when they're organized, they are much more likely to know where to find their assignments and when their assignments are due!

What does being organized look like for students?

  • having a pencil box or pouch to keep all their writing tools and other supplies they use regularly in class, like scissors and glue sticks
  • having a binder (or section of a binder), notebook, and/or folder for each content-area class, based on the requirements of each teacher
  • keeping all papers for each class in their designated place (binder, folder, etc.)
  • having a clutter-free desk and locker
  • using an agenda to record due dates for assignments and upcoming quiz and test dates

Final Thoughts

Because we see our students so frequently, we can play a key role in building their confidence every day. For some of our students, we may be the one person who believes in them and implants in them the confidence they need to pursue their dreams and goals as they transition from school into the world beyond!

© 2018 Geri McClymont


maureen on October 15, 2019:

Indeed great points. i benefited and learnt a lot. As a teacher we have a major role in building confidence in learner.

Shafiqul Islam Tareq on August 18, 2018:

Nothing but excellent . . .

Geri McClymont (author) on August 04, 2018:

Thank you for your comment, Izidino. I am glad you fully support the concept of encouraging students to be confident learners!

Izidino on August 03, 2018:

Expert sayings. Thank you very much for your point of view. I understand it as a mission to every teacher throughout the goals of inclusive education what is more than integrating every one to the same school but also creating self esteem and self confidence to every student.

Greeting from Mozambique :)

Geri McClymont (author) on May 31, 2018:

Thank you for your kind and encouraging words, Dora. Teaching is a very rewarding profession.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on May 31, 2018:

Everyone of your suggestions is important and shows your effort to be effective in the classroom. Number six especially shows your passion to have your students succeed. I admire and respect you in your profession. Thank you.

Geri McClymont (author) on May 28, 2018:

Thank you for your thoughtful comments, BlossomSB. I know that I need to continually reevaluate how I go about my teaching and how I influence my students, even after many years of teaching. It is so true that our students emulate the attitudes they see.

Bronwen Scott-Branagan from Victoria, Australia on May 28, 2018:

Great points and so useful. Even experienced teachers sometimes need to reevaluate how they go about their teaching and how students emulate the attitudes they regularly see before them.

Geri McClymont (author) on May 28, 2018:

Thanks for your comment, Mary. I agree that confidence is important for all people. As teachers, we often take for granted all the little daily opportunities we have to instill confidence in our students.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on May 28, 2018:

These are really worthwhile. Teachers can really use these to make a difference in their students' lives. Confidence is so important in every person that building this in your students is a must.