You’ve heard it time and time again: ‘the more confident you are before a test, the better you will do.’ While confidence may sound like a simple word, its reality at Schechter could not be more complex.
Walking through the hallway, students can sometimes be seen walking with their heads bowed with low self-esteem instead of with chins raised high and minds full of audacity. What is the source of low confidence?
A study at Louisiana State University in 2009 revealed that there is a direct correlation between self-confidence and academic success, thereby confirming the aforementioned phrase heard before every major exam or presentation.
Yet confidence is not such an easy thing to garner, and many students feel self-confident in different capacities at school. Some students lack confidence when handing in tests, even if they have spent hours preparing for it; some find more assurance handing in homework or projects: “I have more confidence handing in homework because I use my notes and other resources to answer questions, and on tests I have to memorize everything,” junior Arielle Felberg said.
Still, others feel that they have more confidence in test taking and that long hours of preparation do actually pay off: “I feel more confident in tests than homework because by the time the test comes around I have studied and made sure I know the material rather than having homework right after learning a concept and not fully understanding it,’’ junior Jenna Lefkowitz said.
“I usually put less effort into homework than I do tests, so I guess I’m usually more confident on tests,” sophomore Harry Reitsky said.
And there are, of course, students who feel comfortable and confident regardless the manner of assessment: “Tests I’m never really stressed about or homework, so I’m pretty confident just handing in both,” sophomore Lewis Raboy said.
Though it may seem little more than a source of comfort, confidence can, according to Felberg, actually influence performance: “When I lack confidence on tests I usually don’t do as well as I can because I get anxious and tend to forget things easily when I’m nervous.”
Junior Zack Szlezinger said he agreed: “My confidence as a student gives me the ability to take more risks with my work.”
This confidence in one’s work comes across in a class, and it is something of which teachers are aware, but Schechter Westchester math teacher Dana Newborn said she believes confidence may be irrespective of whether a student is correct: “I have students who raise their hand a lot and are very confident and they contribute, and other students know the answer, but I think they are not raising their hand because they don’t feel confident that they know the answer, and they don’t want to get it wrong,” she said. “Sometimes it’s students who succeed, and they seem like they don’t have any confidence in their work because they tell me ‘I’m not sure if I’m right;’ ‘I really wasn’t sure about this test,’ and they end up getting a really good grade, often a 100.”
According to an anonymous contributor from the Global Education Network, this is not always the case: “Students who struggle at school, whether or not they appear to care, have no confidence in what they’re doing. They don’t think they’re capable of doing well at school and don’t believe they ever could be.”
A lack of confidence can often turn into a self-inducing spiral; the more one lacks confidence, the worse one performs, and then self-esteem will be harmed.
“If a student is feeling that way it is likely because there are one or more thoughts that creep into their head that are either unhelpful or irrational.” High School Psychologist Dr. Bill Blank said.
Newborn said, “It might be that they are putting a lot of pressure on themselves because for them school is something with really high stakes, so because this matters so much to them they are more anxious about it and that’s why they second guess themselves.”
If confidence is in fact such a pervasive component of a student’s life, there must be those searching for a remedy. Although it might be difficult for some students to completely eliminate their dearth of self-esteem, there are surely many ways to overcome it. Some students, for example, find comfort and confidence in athletics.
Director of Athletics Scott D’Ottavio said “Confidence is a player’s belief in their ability to perform well. To build confidence in sports, one must practice the skills that are required in the sport that they are participating. Once the athlete has become competent or [has] mastery of the skill, their confidence will grow enormously”
Sports, however, are not the only way to build self-esteem; theatre and the arts in general are also a possible solution to this problem.
“I am constantly working to improve my voice, acting technique, and dancing ability. It gives me the most confidence in the world because I love being able to share my love of theatre with others, and it brings me confidence when people enjoy my performance,” freshman Emma Listokin said.
Sophomore Rachel Grand said, “My art gives me confidence because when I draw something I am usually satisfied by it and that boosts my confidence as an artist.”
There is no quick fix to building confidence, but perhaps there are many solutions to gradually attaining high self-esteem. With a little determination and bravery, confidence can be achieved.