You know what’s great about teaching children? They’ll consider whatever you have to say, so long as you say it with confidence. This week presented me with a lesson in the importance of confidence, but from a very different perspective than I’ve experienced before. Usually when I think about the need to feel confident, it is in scenarios that involve giving a presentation to a teacher, or interviewing for a job. These situations have in common the perspective of being in the position with less power. It is ultimately up to the teacher to determine my grade, and the boss determines my employment status. On the contrary, leading the classes and activities at Eureka! Camp this week revealed the significance of exuding confidence when in a position of power.
The value of confidence became apparent in my 8th grade class called Living Safe and Strong, a class about sexual harassment & violence. For the duration of the week, I had a group of 21 girls, and they were a rambunctious bunch. Taking an hour and a half of these girls’ time at the end of the day, every day, to talk to them about such a serious topic was from the outset, a challenge. At the beginning of the first class they tested me, as middle schoolers do. They laughed at serious issues that likely made them feel uncomfortable; they tried to talk over me and over each other, etc. I learned that no matter what material I was teaching, it didn’t matter nearly as much as the way I presented it. If I let them treat the class as a joke, they would treat it as a joke and continue to feel uncomfortable about the topics with which it dealt. But what I found is that when I taught with confidence about my control over the class, they listened. They not only listened, they participated wholeheartedly and with respect. When I unashamedly showed that I had put effort into the class and that I was serious about it, they echoed my confidence with an added element of trust. They posed “embarrassing” questions with confidence and trusted me to take them seriously. I felt so grateful that they would ask me these important questions which they might be too bashful to ask someone else. Had I had less trust in my own abilities, I believe the class would not have turned out nearly as well.