Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I’m not one to be big on the power of positive thinking, but I’ve noticed that how you see yourself has some influence over what you are able to accomplish. An example of where it works is in public speaking. If you walk into a classroom thinking that you have nothing to say and the students are just humoring you because they don’t want to teach the class themselves, you will fail as a teacher. But if you walk into a classroom confident of your ability to teach them something and with self respect for your ability as a teacher, you’ll be able to do a much better job as a teacher. However, before you take the attitude that if you think it it will come true, let’s consider why it works.

Thinking you’re a great teacher doesn’t make it so. I’ve seen a number of people who are overly confident in their abilities and the result is that people laugh behind their backs. To be a great teacher you must prepare to be a great teacher and only then have the confidence in your abilities. If you don’t know your subject you won’t be a great teacher. But let’s suppose you know the subject. If you walk into the room and aren’t confident in your abilities, you’ll hold back. You’ll temper what you say by sticking to the “safe” material. You won’t say anything that you don’t think the other people in the room agree with because you’re afraid they’ll disagree and expose you as a fraud. You’ll stay away from visual aid because you think they look silly. You’ll avoid class discussion because you’re afraid they’ll ask something you don’t have the answer to. In the end, you lecture for the length of class to a chorus of yawns throughout the room.

On the other hand, if you know your subject and are confident in your abilities, you’ll walk into the class with the belief that you can teach the students or at least get them to consider something they might not have otherwise considered. You’ll reduce lecturing and your reliance on Power Point and turn to activities that will cement the concepts you are teaching in the minds of the students. You won’t be as worried about them seeming silly because you’ve given much thought to the impact they will have in reaching your goal of teaching the students.

I think that much of what I’ve said concerning teaching can also be applied to writing. If we become too worried about our inability to write, we pull back and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we are confident that we have something to say, we can ignore those who disagree with us and say what we believe needs to be said. It may not make us better writers, but it allows us to write at the highest level we can.