I recently shared this video on the importance of “confidence” for leadership and it is something that I have often thought about in our work as educators.
My experience as a referee taught me a lot about many aspects of leadership and teaching, but one of the things that it help to develop was my confidence. Often, I would be in a game where the majority of people in the stands could tell me how to do my job, yet the minority had ever done it. Most of your decisions were ones that 50% of people disagreed with, and you quickly develop a thick skin. If you don’t develop it, you cry or quit. You had to not only believe in your ability and understanding of the game, but you also had to be comfortable when you had make a mistake and owning it up to it. The best refs often a lot of confidence in their game, yet it was a dangerous line to flirt with. Arrogant refs who thought they knew more than others and were infallible often alienated themselves from coaches, players, and sometimes other referees.
Instead of googling the definitions of “confidence” and “arrogance”, I throw you my own simple thoughts. Confidence is when you believe in your own abilities yet still have humility. Arrogance is when you believe you are better than others.
This confidence I developed as a referee was something that I needed to carry over to when I became an administrator. Making tough decisions that would ultimately upset people every now and then was wearing, but if I could look back and say that I did what was best for kids, I could sleep at night. I would try my best to listen, value other people’s ideas, but sometimes I had to make the final call and it wasn’t something that all were okay with. That is part of the job.
On the other hand, this lack of confidence by educators can be detrimental to moving forward in our schools. Yong Zhao talks extensively about the correlation between “confidence” and “entrepreneurial spirit in his book “World Class Learners”:
There is no more important attribute of entrepreneurship than a sense of self-confidence, the belief in oneself and one’s own ideas. Entrepreneurs are agents of change, and change is usually resisted. Entrepreneurs will continually confront roadblocks and resistance from individuals who do not support or believe in their ideas…. To confront and overcome the resistance they will encounter, it is imperative that entrepreneurs have a sense of self-confidence. (Zhao)
So what happens when we lack confidence as educators?
Well often it impacts our relationships. Insecurity often leads to distrust and feelings of inadequacy. Similar to any relationship, these feelings often lead to negative actions that make an impact later. What I have tried to do is give trust before I am trusted, and I have been more often right than wrong in this practice. I also try to not take things personally when it comes to decisions within the school. I have often debated many people who disagree with some of my ideas, and previously, I would often be quite upset. Now, I (for the most part) realize that people can have different opinions and still have a negative relationship, as long as they have the ability to listen to each other.
A lack of confidence can lead to either being personally hurt, or a lack of listening. Neither of these outcomes, ultimately serve students. It is easy to label someone as “arrogant” when they don’t agree with our ideas, but sometimes this has to do more with ourselves, than it does in others. Is it their arrogance or our insecurity?
One of the things that I feel is so ironic about education is that we spend so much time talking to our kids, and telling them to be proud of who they are, share their voice, and to be confident, yet as adults we often call others that do the same as “arrogant”. Is that more because of them or us?
I recently read a post from Krissy Venosdale and she referenced how tough it is when we attack each other’s passions:
In a truly collaborative atmosphere, everyone’s strengths are capitalized on, weaknesses embraced and supported, and passion? It’s accepted. It’s celebrated. It’s welcome. It’s what I expect of my students, always. It should be what we expect of ourselves as colleagues. But sometimes even colleagues let each other down.
When you pour you heart into something, it can truly break it when someone doesn’t “get” it. But we’re all different. The very best thing we can do for our students is to live out loud. Be ourselves. Let our passions shine through. Never shining so they will blind others, but so they will light up learning in our schools and for our kids.
We owe it to each and every child that crosses the doorway into our schools to be authentic and we owe it to each other as colleagues to support, build up, and celebrate each other’s chance to shine. Every single day.
As all people, I have my own insecurities, but I think growing as a person helps us to not only identify where we are weak, but sometimes even learn to accept and embrace those feelings. The thing I often wonder is that if we continuously question ourselves in a negative way and project our insecurities on others, what does this model for our students? Before we tackle the world, we often need to be able to tackle ourselves.
“We are all meant to shine, as children do… It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ~ Marianne Williamson