The confidence factor

As I set out on the journey of writing this post I have no fear. You may say that this is because I have written over 200 posts now and am very experienced at tapping the keys, inserting the videos and pictures and of course making sure that I cherry pick the Zemanta-provided references at the end.

No, I haven’t had this fear from the very first post that I wrote over a year ago now. I actually find that I write very fast, with frequent typos that are so handily picked up by the editing facility that comes from the WordPress process of blog creation.

I have always enjoyed writing almost from the earliest opportunities that I had to put my pencil to paper and create something that came from the sounds created from the symbols. I never saw the process of creating a story or writing about something that really interested me as a chore or indeed as a hurdle to be overcome.

The same cannot be said about art though. I remember from an early age saying to myself (and that is the key thing) that I could not draw. When I went to school I was surrounded by children who seemed to be able to create meaningful images with no problems at all. This situation only became worse as I grew older. The demands of my art teacher at secondary school were high. We were now into perspective and the judgement of colours. I used to have a sinking feeling as the Friday afternoon Art lesson came around and I knew that I would be trying things that I had convinced myself I had no ability to cope with. The result was always the same, failure. Indeed I got to the point by my third year in my secondary school that my teacher  allowed me to “sit out” the lesson and read a book outside!

The difference between my experiences of writing and of art were very marked. When I became a Primary (elementary) teacher I relied heavily on Teaching Assistants and indeed my wonderfully artistic students (I always got the great artists in my class by some chance!) to get by in terms of display. Indeed I got through a whole career of  twenty-five years with most people believing that I had a reasonable facility with art!

Last night, I watched a programme on T.V. in which Michel Roux Jr., the famous chef, has been guiding a number of young people who have never thought of the idea, in the process of becoming waiters in top restaurants in London and indeed anywhere.

The students come from a variety of backgrounds and most of them have come to this process without any prior knowledge or skills relating to service in a fine-dining restaurant. The results of Michel’s coaching, teaching and support (along with his ex-employee Fred , a Maitre-D, at a very expensive London restaurant) have been wonderful to see. I have seen people who have come from a belief that they were inadequate and couldn’t do the tasks set to a position where they have self-belief and have begun to function as potentially excellent waiting staff for any restaurant anywhere in the world.

Michel Roux has been a revelation as a teacher. He has not shouted or put his charges down. He has shown disappointment when they have let themselves down (which they have done on a few occasions by behaviour and attitude that negates their learning). He has been willing to have a quiet word of support which has helped the would-be waiters to make progress. Most importantly he has encouraged his charges to have self-belief and confidence in themselves.

Now you cannot teach this confidence factor, it is a matter of self-persuasion.This “self-persuasion” also runs the other way. It is what made me believe that I was “no good at art” it is what makes so many adults say that they are “no good at mathematics” and it is what makes the student waiters occasionally hit a wall, because they get to the point where their own mind is telling them that they cannot do it.

I do not know where I acquired the inner self-confidence that I have with writing. I have now reached word 695 in this post (as advised to me by my word count meter at the bottom of my WordPress post) and I have not had any real problems in terms of “what do I do now?” “I’m not sure what to write” , “I can’t do this”.

We need to be aware of the confidence factor and the way that it can affect any learning. The teacher’s role needs to be to support a student as Michel Roux so ably does. Whereas we cannot teach confidence we can certainly dent it or even destroy it, particularly if it is in a fragile or developing state. Sometimes I wonder just what might have happened to our world if teachers would not have put students down or stated that what they produced was inadequate. I suppose that I was fortunate to have never been put down in my writing or not so much as to have just dented my confidence. In art I cannot say the same thing.What message was I being told when I was allowed to “sit out” the class?

Many years after this event I was doing a drawing with a child in my class. I had recently seen an article that said that drawing is aided if you look at a very small part of what you are trying to draw and not get yourself confused with the wider picture. I therefore followed this advice and produced a reasonable effort of a person’s face. The child looked at it and said “you can really draw well Mr Bellamy”. It was probably one of the best moments in my teaching career.

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