The importance of encouragement

BY SIMON CRANE, HEADMASTER AT WOODRIDGE COLLEGE AND PREPARATORY SCHOOL - MAY 13, 2016

At Woodridge College and Preparatory School I often suggest that the children at our school need to possess the twin qualities of pride and humility. This is not as easy to embrace as it is to write. That is for sure. How do you embrace pride and still ensure that you are humble?

The biggest obstacle to success in children is self-confidence. I am fairly sure that I could have been an astronaut. I could have been a film director. I could have managed a hotel chain. We all have tremendous potential and the children in our schools today have seemingly limitless potential to do…anything.

The biggest inhibitor to success is a lack of self-belief and a lack of self-confidence.

How many of us doubt our abilities? How many of you reading this article have serious concerns that you are not good enough? I have this feeling all the time. If something goes wrong, the first person I think to blame is me.

Quite often I find that I am actually not to blame and very often I get things right and yet still this self-doubt persists. As a 48-year old I should be confident and in many ways I am over the insecurities of youth, but how much more pronounced are these insecurities in a teenager or young adult who is trying to establish himself or herself in the world?

Schools need to find ways to unlock the potential within their charges. I’ve written before about the need for schools and parents to work together and this partnership is critically important. When I hear of pupils who have been broken down by parents and by teachers I am heartbroken. By destroying confidence you take away everything that the child has been and everything that they will be. By not building confidence in a child you are complicit in destroying that potential.

I am not suggesting we say “Well done!” every five minutes to everyone. Let’s not cheapen the encouragement by just handing it out all the time. In the very tough movie “Whiplash”, drum-teacher Terence Fletcher states that, “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘good job’”.

But equally an absence of encouragement is hugely detrimental to growth for both adults and children.

We have the most extraordinary responsibility as parents and as teachers to get it right. To find the way to grow the children in care, to build their confidence and to unlock the extraordinary potential that lies within each of us.

My challenge to you today is to find a way to encourage someone. Make that phone call. Tell that person that has done well, that they have indeed done well and provide the opportunity for someone to take that step closer towards reaching their potential. As teachers, parents and citizens we often have the chance to help someone shine and we don’t. Try it today!