You’re listening to the Parents of Hardworking Teens Podcast, episode 45 - confidence, what it is, how I see it vary in students, how it grows and the beliefs and evidence that need to show up in order to get your teen more confident in their study.
Hello VIPs! How are you? I’ve got to tell you, that right now, I am in my element.
I’m recording this in the second week of the easter holidays and so I’ve got the luxury of extra time and I’m using it to plan all of the content and delivery for the Next Level live event that I’m running on the 7th May.
Next Level Coaching is my monthly coaching program for students who’ve completed the 10WGT, loved it and want more. Want to work with me personally in more depth and keep uplevelling, and honing their skills. And twice a year we have a big, live online event where we take a particular aspect of study, assessment or exams and we focus on it, we develop it, we consolidate the concepts on it from the 10WGT and we extend them. Our last event like this was Essays Bootcamp last year, where me and Gemma - our English-Focus Coach did 4 bootcamp sessions over 4 weeks. And if English or essays or literature or writing are areas you’d love to enhance for your teen, then stay tuned to the podcast, make sure you’ve followed and subscribed, because next week, Gemma is going to be my special guest here on the podcast, and I can’t WAIT to record that one for you. Gemma is not only an amazing English teacher, but she’s also by far, the most experienced examiner, assessor and moderator I know.
Also… another update to share with you…
from Wed the 19th of April, so that’s literally tomorrow for the date this episode goes live on the podcast, I’m also going to be hosting a monthly open Q&A for all of you, as a Facebook Live on the Rock Solid Study Facebook Page. It’s going to be your chance to pick my brain for free, parents and carers and students are all welcome and you can ask me anything you like about study.
And because, right now I’m in the midst of planning the Next Level event, I have a HUGE collection of past papers, mark schemes, syllabus criteria, sample responses, annotated exemplars, from all different exam boards, for all different subjects, from Y10 up to Y13. I’m dissecting them with a fine toothed comb. Because this event is going to be all about how to get more marks from mark schemes, especially in extended responses and especially at the top end of the criteria. Because I thought long and hard about what to make this particular event about. What to focus it on and I literally asked myself, what’s the thing that students who have gone through the 10WGT still struggle with sometimes, what would they really love to master for the level they’re at.
And my brain just really clearly came up with - they want to be able to nail success criteria. Because they now have the skills and strategies to do it, they now need to meet the nuances and the highest level demands of the big extended response exam questions, the essays, the inquiries.
I even had a Dean of a high school say to me recently that even she struggled to really figure these things out - those descriptors that can be vague and ambiguous, like an analysis being detailed, vs sophisticated. so I’m on a mission right now to get things clear, get things systematised, get these things USABLE. To get students totally confident in what they need to do to reach certain criteria, and confident that they know how to do it and have the skills to do it.
I’m going to share a couple of the key take-aways on the Facebook Live Q&A so definitely be there, if your teen could use some help with that. I’m going to do these monthly 7.30pm AEST on the third Wednesday of every month from now til the end of the school year. And if you’re not on Facebook, don’t worry - if you’re on my email list, I’ll also send out an alternative Zoom link where I’ll also be streaming and you can also type in questions. But if you’re on Facebook, then make sure you like and follow the Rock Solid Study page.
If you’re thinking that this type of training would be really helpful for your teen, and they haven’t already done the 10 week Grade Transformation Program, then get them in asap. There is a whole catapult module where I teach Mastering Mark Schemes.
And if they HAVE completed the 10WGT and aren’t already in Next Level then we have an open enrolment coming up on the 1st to the 5th May. So if you want more info about that, you can get on the waitlist at www.gradetransformation.com/nextlevel.
Just remember though, we only accept students who’ve completed the 10WGT.
Now, let’s get into the topic of confidence.
Which ties in really well with everything I’ve just updated you on, because I can tell you, that by far the most common thing parents tell me they want for their teen when they join the 10WGT, or when they answer one of my surveys, or they email me, is that they want their teen to be more confident in their study. And it’s one of the key outcomes that I promise in all of my trainings. Not just increased results, but also increased confidence.
Confidence is a feeling, so it might feel hard to measure, it might change from one day to the next, or one subject to the next.But that doesn’t mean we don’t have control over it.
Now, I don’t think that confidence is something we’re either born with, or we’re not. I think it’s something that can be grown or can be depleted depending on our life experiences. And it’s not always something we outwardly show, it’s something we think and feel inside.
We can be shy but confident. And we can be bold or outgoing, but lacking confidence on the inside. We can be confident in some things and totally lacking confidence in others. I definitely have things that I don’t feel confident with, or situations I don’t feel confident in. I have things that I didn’t previously feel confident with, that I now do.
Like standing up and teaching a class of 30 teenagers. Not confident at the start of my teacher training, though confident that I could learn it, and now, confident that I could do that in most situations.
There are things that I used to be more confident with, that now I’m less so.
A simple example right now is squats at the gym. Used to be one of my stronger lifts, now, since I tweaked my back a couple of months ago, I’m not confident at all.
I used to be shy as a kid, was definitely not confident. Now, I’m much more confident in myself and in being in new situations. I know you probably don’t believe I was a shy child. But ask my mum or dad, they’ll tell you I was quiet and well-behaved - and now I just say I’m making up for lost time. Still well-behaved - mostly - I’m never going to be a rebel, I like to follow the rules, but as you know, I’m a talker, and not a quiet one.
Now, the reason that our confidence can vary so much, is because the feeling of confidence comes from what we’re thinking and believing about the task at hand and how we relate to it. It comes from thinking ‘I can do this’ or ‘I know what I’m doing’. (As opposed to ‘I don’t know what I’m doing, I can’t do this’, or ‘I have no idea’.).
It comes from believing ‘This will be easy’, or, even if we know it might not be easy, it might be believing something like ‘I can figure this out’ or ‘I’m good at this sort of thing’. But, that doesn’t mean that we can just recite affirmations like ‘I can do this’ to ourselves and expect to then feel confident. If we don’t truly believe those things, just saying or hearing the words won’t make any difference to how we think and feel.
Therefore it might be helpful to bear in mind as a parent, that even though you might be tempted to try to boost your teen’s confidence by telling them things like ‘you can do this’, ‘you’ve got this’ - and it can indeed be helpful for your teen to know that YOU believe in them, you have confidence in them, that is certainly a step in the right direction and can start to change their own beliefs about themselves if they know someone else believes it about them - but, what you really want to do, is create situations where they begin to feel confident in themselves, for themselves.
Because the same is true for denting our confidence. We could have someone tell us they don’t like our hair, but if we think our hair is fabulous, it doesn’t make much difference to our confidence. But if we get told it over and over again, then maybe our confidence will weaken. And the same is true for your teen’s study. If they get one disappointing result, then they can bounce back, but if it happens over and over again, do we really expect them to have that level of resilience to just keep working hard, even though it’s rarely paying off for them?
It’s not about making everything positive and never experiencing anything negative, that wouldn’t be reasonable and wouldn’t give any opportunity to build resilience or to reflect and figure out how to improve. But I want to also share that this is not just about the result and whether it’s considered a success or a disappointment.
Because true confidence comes from your teen experiencing success and - and this is the important part - knowing that they had control over that success. That it wasn’t luck, that it wasn’t a fluke. Confidence comes from experiencing, or more specifically, CREATING success and being able to do it on demand, predictably and with control.
I remember a student who was just starting the 10WGT a couple of years ago. I spoke with him and his dad and he told me that he’d just gotten an A in his Engineering assignment. And you can probably guess what I said in response. Well done, that’s awesome… and then… ‘Do you know exactly why you got the A?’ I wanted to know if he knew how he’d gotten that result, what exactly in his writing hit the top criteria. So that he could it again - not that he’s going to get the exact same task again, but by using the universal strategies of things like the 3 steps of analysis no matter what’s being analysed, - a Shakespeare quote, or data, like dissecting the question, like identifying the topic and focus of any essay. And he laughed a little and said no. He was pleased he got such a great result this time, but he felt like he’d kinda guessed - he’d done his best, but he didn’t know exactly why he’d gotten the A.
So of course I got him to send me through that assignment and I went through it on our next group coaching call, because I wanted him and every other student on that call, to know exactly what made that an A-quality piece. What exactly ticked the A-standard criteria, why it counted, and, if there were any parts in there that didn’t that perhaps weren’t needed.
So, even though a good result can boost confidence, because it shows ‘I can do it’, the real power comes when your teen can say ‘I can do it AND I know exactly HOW to do it again’.
Let’s think about it the other way. What if there’s a task that your teen’s never been faced with before? What if they’re prepping for an exam and they have no idea what questions will be on the paper? Can they still feel confident in tackling that?
If they don’t have past evidence yet, then where does that confidence come from?
It comes from knowing they have the skills, knowledge and capabilities that are required to tackle any question they’re faced with.So they know their subject content. AND they have solid exam technique - so that they know they can dissect the question, they know how to respond to whatever the command is, and they know how to identify the focus of an essay question and they can figure out, on the spot what is and isn’t needed in the response.
They can mentally predict the mark scheme, how the marks available will be allocated.
They know what will make their writing detailed as opposed to adequate.
(Make sure to come to the Facebook Live - Wed 19th April, 7.30pm for more on that!)
Having faith in their abilities, skills and knowledge means they’ll have thoughts like ‘I can figure out whatever they throw at me’ - the ‘I can figure this out’ phrase, rather than hoping and praying that certain questions will or won’t come up.
When I work with students on coaching calls, one of the questions I sometimes start with when they first share their task sheet, or their draft, or even a finished piece is ‘how confident are you feeling with this?’
Literally on our most recent coaching call, a student told me they had to write a persuasive speech and I asked them “on a scale of 1 - 10, how confident do you feel with writing this?”. And their answer was 2.
Now, if you ever do this with your teen, remember that whatever their answer is, it’s a great starting point. Because you can then have a discussion to find out which elements they’re feeling okay about - in this case the part that got them from a 1 up to a 2. And then discuss what they aren’t sure about, where they’re lacking clarity, and get into things that way.
20 mins later, when I asked them again after some guidance, they were at a 6. So, if you ever doubt how quickly just a few concepts or strategies can work to make a difference, that’s a perfect example. Can they eventually get to a 9 or a 10, for sure. But 2 to 6 in 20 mins is a good start.
And I will say, just as a little side-note here, what this scoring system and discussion led to, was that what they really wanted were some tips on how to present well. Because after they’d written the speech, they had to deliver it in front of the class.
I realised that part of the reason for the low numbers was because they were nervous about having to give the presentation. And I think it’s worth noting that being nervous is not the same as lacking confidence.
For sure, there are some overlaps in how the emotion feels. We’re apprehensive, we’re hesitant, we have a feeling of dread. But a student could be confident in what they’ve written, but nervous to deliver it. Or, conversely, they could be a great performer, and so confident in the delivery, but NOT confident in how to write a persuasive speech in the first place.
Your teen can be confident in their knowledge or skills AND still be nervous. That’s totally natural and I think is something worth acknowledging. Being nervous does not necessarily mean there’s a problem.
I mean, the singer Adele, you know the singer Adele? She actually came and toured in Australia a few years ago and I went to see her and she was incredible. But Adele has often publicly said how nervous she gets before performing, to the point that she rarely does live tours. But she’s an amazing singer. She’s confident in her singing, but she gets nervous when performing to huge crowds.
So, nerves and confidence might feel similar, but are not the same thing, so if this is a thing for your teen, it might be worth exploring a little bit to see where there might be nerves (and finding some strategies to help with that) and where there’s a lack of confidence that’s genuinely coming from a lack or deficiency in a skill or capability.
So, I’ll wrap up by repeating that confidence is a fluid emotion. It makes sense that it if we have lots of successes, it will increase over time. And that if we have multiple disappointments, it will decline. But, because confidence is not fixed, that also means that it can be turned around.
Gaining and developing certain skills can build your teen’s confidence.
And that is compounded when they actually go on to then create success, achieve good or even great results, or simply do it in less time than it used to take. That new evidence then further builds that confidence, because they now have proof. That they have the knowledge and skills and they know what they’re doing, they can figure it out, they ARE good at this sort of thing.
Your teen’s confidence comes not just from success, or being told by other’s that they can do it. True and lasting confidence but knowing that they created for themselves, with control, they know HOW they did it and they can do it again.
Have a brilliant week everyone, I’ll see you for live Q&A AND some latest, fresh off the press bonus tips on the Facebook page at 7.30pm AEST every third Wednesday of the month and I’ll talk to you again next week here on the podcast. Bye!