Competence Brings Confidence


“Every choice is a career choice.”

According to Dave Redekoff, who shared this idea during TedXWestVancouverEd, we should not assume that career choices are made during a course in high school or a when applying to a post-secondary program. Career choices are made as a culmination of every choice we have already made and will continue to make as we move toward fulfillment and acceptance. This could also be extended to recognize that every choice we make, every opportunity we choose to take, and every challenge we accept or reject adds another element to the ever-evolving and changing personality and skillset we offer to ourselves and the world.

Wow. Every choice matters. Is this liberating or paralyzing?

In our fast paced world, decisions are made quickly, items are crossed off to-do lists, and reflection is a process that occurs long after the task… if at all. I know that I make decisions with the larger picture in mind: What is the moral compass that guides me? How will this decision or action impact the lives of those around me? Am I bringing my full attention and skills to the situation?

But I also find myself excited when my to-do list decreases; excited because the task is done and I can move on to the next one, not excited about the professional, personal, or social growth that comes from these decisions. Am I any different than some of my students who can see the big picture but want to complete the assignment just to “get it done” and move on to the next task, or students who view task completion as a burden that has been lifted – an action disconnected from real life– and an opportunity to do something more meaningful?

So how do we make tasks more meaningful and relevant? How can we see that every choice we make has the power to lead us to a better, confident, compassionate, and more fulfilled self? Perhaps this isn’t possible or even desired. Focussing on every aspect of our lives in every moment can be exhausting or even eliminate the joy of being in the moment – that state of flow that comes from losing yourself in an activity.

However, not focussing on specifics can lead to disappointment at the end of a task or when the report card comes at the end of the term – a feeling that I’m doing my best yet I’m not satisfied with the outcome. Or I might not even know what my ‘best’ is. I know that I can do better – I just don’t know why I feel this way or how I can change the result. Confidence decreases. Tasks seem overwhelming; the purpose is lost or ignored, becoming a to-do list with completion as the guiding force.

Competence brings confidence.

The Core Competencies in the new BC curriculum provide a framework to use – adults and children alike – to build our confidence in key areas that apply to each and every task we face in life: Communication Skills, Thinking Skills, and Personal and Social Skills. If we use this framework, we can make any opportunity – and the choices within this opportunity – more meaningful and relevant. We can focus on “what are the best skills for this task?” rather than an unknown and ever elusive “being our best selves.”

A focus on competencies can ground us and help us determine the importance of and value in our decisions. But we can’t focus on all aspects of the competencies all of the time. Choosing a competency and clearly articulating the area we are focusing on ahead of the task can provide a sense of confidence prior to beginning, and a specific area to reflect upon and to document our progress.

For example: Prior to presenting a new idea at a staff meeting, I decide to focus on the following aspects of the Communication Competency profile:

I communicate confidently and effectively, understand and control the forms and technologies I use to communicate, and ask clarifying and extending questions.”

Now I have clear areas of focus as I prepare and deliver my presentation, as well as key areas for reflection: Was I confident in my knowledge of the material? Did the technology I use help or hinder my communication? Did others understand what I was trying to communicate? What kinds of questions did I ask others to ensure their understanding and to extend my own?

And by focussing on competencies rather than content, I can readily practise these skills again in a new task—something that isn’t always possible in a classroom when we focus exclusively on content. Students may demonstrate an understanding of weather patterns in one year and then have to wait until revisiting the science of weather in later grades to demonstrate further mastery.

Sharing a common language of core competencies allows learners of all ages to use the same terminology when discussing their learning, to connect with one another to share strategies and successes, and to seek feedback and encouragement with understanding and empathy.

I encourage you to explore the Core Competencies, use the language of the profiles in your own professional and personal life, and engage in conversations with students who are exploring their own learning in these areas. Together we can focus on building our collective competencies, and subsequently build our confidence to face whatever challenges, opportunities, and choices may come our way.

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