Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Kid Confidence

My son is doing his first science experiment at school.  I convinced him, even though the electric principles are beyond his 3rd grade curriculum, to build different sized batteries from quarters from a project in The Dangerous Book for Boys, and to measure the difference in voltage.  The principles of electricity were easy for him to pick up using the analog of water flowing through a river.  My greater hope was just that it would force him to focus, to read and understand reasonably complex instructions, and to apply a discipline to perform and report on his work.  Regardless of the outcome, that is what his teachers are looking for, learning and applying the scientific method.
He Blinded me with Science!
He's been worried about this project for a while.  Last night, we built a test battery, so he could become comfortable with it.  Today, he presents his project and the hypothesis he wants to test to his classmates.  I told him, as we built the battery, to document the steps in his notebook, to help him commit them to memory.  We built the battery successfully, and he measured the voltage with a multimeter (~1.7V, for those morbidly curious).  We then ate Pork Meatball Banh Mi sandwiches, which were awesome, but that's another story...

After we built the battery, documented it, and ate our sandwiches, he had to practice his speech.  This terrified him.  I gave him all the usual tips: to relax and breath, to simplify messages so they were easier to remember, and to practice.  The most important advice I gave him, though, was when I asked him if anyone in the class knew how to make a battery, he told me no, not even the teacher.  So, he was the expert.  His little Chicken McNugget brain lit up, and he got more and more confident while he practiced.  He stopped sticking his hands in his pants.  He stopped rocking back and forth and making us seasick.  He starting nailing his speech.

It's tough to separate which comes first, confidence or focus.  This morning, my son woke up and gave an excellent speech about his project and what he was going to prove, in front of the camera.  He wondered out loud if he would become a scientist, or maybe a sports broadcaster.

Either way, be the expert in everything you do.  The confidence and focus it provides is incredible.  It even keeps you from putting your hands in your pants while speaking in public.

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