Teachers working in a K-12 environment are often concerned about how their students will perform on various required standardized tests. This leads to a test-focused classroom where test passing skills are the most valuable commodity.
This is unfortunate, because a test-focused classroom overlooks the development of other important qualities, including ones that are valued by employers. Take creativity and confidence, for example, two qualities that help make leaders and visionaries, and skills that are treasured by top companies everywhere. Why should these play second fiddle to test preparation?
Below we’ve detailed five simple ways that K-12 teachers can spark creativity and confidence in their classrooms. It’s easier than you think:
1. Project the qualities yourself
By dressing well, standing up straight, projecting your voice, and maintaining an attitude of authority and clarity, you can demonstrate to students the power and appeal of confidence. Students are naturally drawn to that confidence, as it gives them the structure they really want.
On the creative side, showcase your own creativity by working with a designer to create a DIY collaborative printout. Over time, students will realize the value of independently creating content instead of relying on others to create it for them.
2. Try not to over-correct
When students engage in a free activity, like a presentation, team project, or similar work, avoid the urge to micromanage, even if you see them making errors. The space to create will allow for greater creativity, while the lack of nit-picking will keep students confident enough to try things out and use their own system of trial and error to find the best balance.
This one takes a lot of patience and will power. It’s hard not to jump in and help when you see mistakes being made. Just remember that every mistake is a lesson, too.
3. Own your own mistakes
Speaking of mistakes, you can foster confidence in the classroom by admitting your own mistakes whenever you make them. If a student corrects you, or you make an error in the classroom, own it and demonstrate the power of learning from one’s mistakes.
4. Create leadership opportunities
Not everyone can be a leader, but that doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from developing leadership qualities. Give students in your classroom responsibilities; challenge them to self-start and solve problems for the group without your input. What you’ll see is the creation of a positive cycle—leadership begetting confidence, and confidence begetting greater leadership.
5. Loosen up activity parameters
When you create a classroom activity for students, try not to impose overly restrictive parameters. Let’s say, for example, you assign middle school students the task of preparing a presentation where they act as an “expert” on something. You shouldn’t limit them on the “expertise” side; let them come up with ideas and you’ll see the creative confidence start to flow.