Letter to the Editor

“About the pedagogical value of confidence”

In Current Concerns No 14, Carl Bossard’s article is illustrated by a picture that captures the lesson, the “dialogical events” in the classroom. The pupils look spellbound at the teacher and try to imitate the teacher’s finger movements. The picture illustrates the importance of the teachers.
In the text the notion of confidence appealed to me, “confidence as a basic human attitude”. In my profession as a teacher, I have put it this way: I have to be absolutely certain that every single student can learn everything.
Many years ago an old friend, Bruno, wrote a poem in which he expressed the importance of the teacher for him as a special pupil. I would like to quote a few lines from it here.
Creased, mute, suspicious, with the inner woundedness of a pupil who has been abandoned, he is sitting in a small class. He doesn’t want to talk, he stutters, he has an uncontrolled twitch in his face. He does not want to be addressed, but he observes very closely what is happening in the class. How does the teacher talk to the others? How does she help them? How does she find the intertwining thread? Then he writes:
“I feel she will not abandon a student.” And a reassurance follows. Then the day comes when the teacher instructs him to do arithmetic:

“‘Try the calculation’, says the teacher, ‘you can do it.’
I write the numbers, the result just floats away.
I want to be the blackbird out there, it doesn’t have to study.
‘Give it a try’, I hear, ‘try it’.
Nine and twelve – and the result is gone again.
Far in the distance I hear the teacher’s word.
I digressed, the blackbird outside doesn’t have to study.
‘Try it again’, I hear, ‘try it again’.
But the teacher’s words don’t leave me alone,
while I’m watching the blackbirds outside.”

After finally having succeeded in some calculations first with effort and then with verve, the poem continues:

“Forgotten the blackbird, don’t hear it sing anymore.”

For me the confidence of the teacher is so clearly expressed in this scene. She encourages Bruno, gives him the confidence, so that his mental escape: “I want to be the blackbird”, recedes behind the energetic grasp, the solving of the calculating tasks.
With the solution of the tasks the teacher does not stop. With the appreciation the teacher associates a hint which Bruno expresses in the poem:

“‘Well done!” It’s good for me how she speaks.
But remember that, you don’t skip a calculation!
I look at her for a long time, she is serious.
That you don’t learn how to calculate with cheating!’”
In the last paragraph, Carl Bossard writes about the pupils with learning difficulties who need teachers “who encourage them and thus build a bridge for them to succeed – and thus confidence and insight: ‘I can do it.’”

I simply like the fact that Current Concerns emphasises this pedagogical focus in many articles.

Margret Kleine-Pauli, Zurich

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