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6 Tips for Boosting Student Confidence

Feb 12, 2019 by

Low self-esteem is a very real and very sad epidemic affecting both men and women across the world. What’s even more disturbing is the age at which low self-esteem sets in. Girls as young as age 9 have reported being on a diet to improve their looks and be more well-liked. There are millions of women and young girls suffering from eating disorders due to low self-esteem. But it doesn’t just affect females. Men are equally at risk for low self-esteem and adopting negative habits as a result.

Most of these issues start in school, where students are exposed to the person beliefs, opinions, and ridicule of other students. They’re already at a sensitive age where self-discovery and self-doubt are running rampid. Add criticism and skepticism into the mix and you have a recipe for disaster. As a teacher, how can you boost student confidence and help them apply it to their work? Continue reading to find out.

1. Pick Your Battles

This is a life lesson that serves both teachers and students well. Picking your battles isn’t code for allowing students to get away with bad behavior. Instead, it means not nitpicking every last misstep they make and occasionally cutting them some slack. Teen students with low self-esteem are already extremely sensitive and defensive. Even the smallest criticism can hit a nerve. When you get to know your students, you’ll understand their triggers and how to avoid them. This doesn’t mean stepping on eggshells but when you let the little things go, it gives students with low self-esteem the chance to redeem themselves. And gives you the opportunity to elicit real, positive change.

2. Praise Their Accomplishments

This is one of the best ways to boost student confidence. Praising their accomplishments makes them feel good. It shows that you acknowledge their talents and helps them do the same. Students, like many adults, fail to give themselves enough credit. They may feel like they’re not good enough and struggle to see their positive qualities. When you take the time to compliment them and point out their strong suites, it makes a world of difference. Show students you’re proud of them and that their efforts aren’t going unnoticed. This instantly boosts their confidence and encourages them to continue trying and set goals. This useful link details the positive effect confidence has on student performance.

3. Put Yourself in Their Shoes

Let’s face it. The teenage years are hard. And although some time has passed since you’ve been in high school or middle school, you likely remember what it feels like to lack self-confidence. By putting yourself in the students’ shoes, you’re more apt to feel sympathy and understanding for their situation over ridicule and frustration. If you see a student struggling with a specific project or topic, offer them some extra help. Compliment them on the aspects of the task that they’re grasping before pointing out areas for improvement. Always start with the positive to help boost their confidence and follow up with suggestions that address the task rather than the individual student’s shortcomings.

4. Encourage Participation Without Judgment

Students who lack self-esteem are usually hesitant to participate in both group and individual activities. It’s your job as the educator and facilitator in the room to encourage students to get involved. The best way to do this is by creating a welcoming and non-intimidating atmosphere. Start with casual small group work where students can choose their own location in the classroom. They can use bean bags chairs or even the floor to feel more comfortable and at ease. Avoid calling on or singling out a self-conscious student in front of a large group. Try prepping them with some of the questions you plan on asking. Plan small group projects where each participant gets a part to speak about. And pair students with others who make them feel comfortable. This will help them break out of their shell and discover their internal confidence. Group work also builds on individual student strengths.

5. Be Available

You are probably more important and influential in your students’ lives than you realize. They may not want to talk to their parents about certain issues their having related to their confidence. When you appear approachable and available, students will let their guard down and come to you with their problems. Offer objective and unbiased advice or guidance. A “pep talk” from you may have more of an effect than you realize. Sometimes, just talking about their issues helps students let go of fears and adopt a more positive, confident persona. Show your students that you care and that they can safely confide in you.

6. Build on Prior Knowledge

There’s no worse feeling for a student than sitting in class completely lost and confused about the lesson but too embarrassed or self-conscious to speak up. This leads to a snowball effect of misinformation. When students miss out on basic concepts, they can’t progress onto the more complex lessons that stem from this foundation. Help students with low self-esteem grasp basic concepts first before moving onto more complex lessons. This builds their confidence and encourages them to approach new tasks with a more positive attitude. Tapping into prior knowledge reinforces a student’s beliefs in their capabilities.

7. Capitalize on Peer Interactions

Sometimes, hearing positive reinforcement and encouragement from their peers is more effective and meaningful to students than hearing it from you or their parents. Find a student in class who is well-liked and compassionate. Pair them with your shy, self-conscious student. Encourage the more involved student to compliment their classmate on certain skills and accomplishments they make during their group work. Students with low self-esteem may be more willing to open up to classmates and their compliments and praise will likely mean more. After all, it’s their peers who most influence a students self-worth. As wrong as this may be, you can use it to your advantage in the classroom to boost student confidence and help uncertain students feel more accepted.

Confidence is something we all search for and find in different places. Some of us have high self-esteem and blind confidence from a young age, while others struggle with it their whole lives. With a little patience, tact, and a few tricks up your sleeve, you can play an important role in building student self-esteem and promoting a more positive, healthier future.

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