Think back to your teenage years. Was there a teacher that you liked above all others? This person most likely had these characteristics: they listened, they encouraged and most importantly they helped you believe in yourself. Now think back to a time when you felt discouraged in school-what was the attitude of the teacher toward students? The attitude of a teacher and the class dynamic has a powerful impact on confidence.
The idea that boys and girls learn and respond differently to information isn’t new. And yet at a time when companies are realizing how important it is to encourage women to raise their hand and recognize “high potential” performers, middle schools and high schools are still teaching girls the same way as 40 years ago. When a student doesn’t grasp material or if she feels they have underperformed to their abilities, teachers treat them differently and start to exclude them from discussions.
Teen girls stop raising their hands when they feel their contribution doesn’t matter or like there is a chance they might be ridiculed. When there are dress codes and a girl is routinely called out for a minor infraction in front of peers, her confidence plummets and she might become less engaged in academics. A snowball effect starts to present itself while her parents scratch their heads not knowing the dynamics at school that have directly impacted grade performance.
Just like in corporations, attitude starts at the top. When there is a culture of understanding and desire to help develop teens into leaders regardless if they are boys are girls, everyone thrives. It is less likely for teenage girls in an environment of public criticism and not encouraging full class participation that they feel like asserting their opinions.
Why is this so important? Fast forward to age 28-35 and young women who might otherwise excel in a career hesitate. They self-doubt and question their credentials. A job opening comes up and rather than submitting an application they start to review the criteria and think-I have 5 out of the 10 things on this list, I better not try for this job.
What can we do about this? It all arrows point back to middle school and the importance of teachers understanding their impact on the future of the girls they teach.
3 Confidence Boosting Habits Teachers Should Implement
- Encourage Participation: Girls need to feel valued and know their voice matters. When a teacher gives a student praise no matter how small her self worth is dramatically increased.
- Practice the Golden Rule: No one likes to feel stupid or called out for mistakes in front of peers. Treating teen girls the way the need to be treated, with respect will help them realize their value and potential.
- Reinforce Persistence: In academics and sports girls might give up easier than boys when they feel they can’t do it and over think why they didn’t do well. Helping them to not give up and keep on going will serve them well for life.
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