My time working as a mentor for Oppidan has taught me a lot of things but none so much as the power of confidence. In teaching maths and mentoring I have become aware that confidence is the real key to progress and achievement. There is nothing out there (counter arguments welcome) that you can’t get better at if you practice. No one is asking you to become poet laureate or play football for England; you don’t have to be the best, but you can always get better. This knowledge and the confidence to trust it is what lies between you and that A grade, that job, that skill.
This idea isn’t new. It’s the growth mindset theory and it’s part of what Richard De Souza teaches with his D7 – a set of attributes that all ‘High Performers’ have. It makes sense to me and it’s an idea I have talked to my students about to encourage them to have more self-belief and to trust in their abilities. I hate the thought of a child who resolutely believes they can’t do something and feel passionate about instilling confidence in all of my mentees. But as I went about parroting Richard De Souza’s wisdom I realised I wasn’t actually using it for myself at all.
In my work, I struggle with self-belief and focus all the time. As soon as I sat down and talked to myself about it, it was glaringly obvious: you can’t achieve what you want because you believe it’s to do with raw talent rather than hard work and confidence. This was a humbling realisation, one that made me much more aware of the ways in which I am holding myself back.
It might be slightly different for others, but I am sure now that confidence is the crux for me and something I have to work hard on every day to keep my inner-critic at bay. If only I had been my own mentee – maybe I would have realised sooner!
By Fiona Johnston, Oppidan Mentor