Encouraging Students with their Track Records

As a high school computer science teacher, I find myself teaching much more than just computer science in my classroom. I teach critical thinking skills, habits of mind, and recently how to balance confidence with a healthy amount of self-doubt.

After reading this article by  Kay and Shipman, and this op-ed by David Brooks, I realize that confidence is a feeling that I must continue to discuss with my students. I appreciate the question that Brooks’ identifies in his piece: “How can each of us get a better mixture of “female” self-doubt and “male” self-assertion?”

In my classroom, I have found that encouragement on its own does not help my female students; they don’t believe me. As a result, I encourage my female students, by pointing out what they have done already – what they have accomplished. This, I realize, is the strategy that worked for me.  While in college, I was in classes that were made up of mostly male students. What encouraged me to keep going was the direct feedback I got from writing a successful program and my professors telling me that I had earned one of the top scores (or the top score) on an exam. My confidence flourished in college and it continues to be my mission to help the young women I teach find that confidence earlier.

I hope that my female students feel comfortable in my computer science classroom and that they gain confidence and a healthy amount of self-assertion. I also hope to continue to help my male students reflect on their work and develop a healthy amount of self-doubt. I am always looking for great ways to encourage and support all of my students. If you have suggestions, please comment!

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