Credit Belongs to Those in the Arena: Creative Confidence & a Designer’s Mindset

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

-Theodore Roosevelt

I came across this quote from Theodore Roosevelt and it really struck me. Credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.

Teachers are in the arena each and every day.

We are the ones on the front lines marred by dust and sweat and blood, and I might add, tears. We are erring, coming up short again and again, but there is no effort without error and shortcoming. We are the ones who are striving to do the deeds. We are the ones investing in our future. Investing in our kids. In others’ kids. And this, let me tell you, is no small task.

Some teachers can keep at it, others tire, but we should aim to bolster our teacher’s efforts. How do we do this? The book creative confidence gave me some ideas about building confidence and capacity in educators. As a teacher myself, I found myself excited by the possibilities of a changed mindset.

The Importance of Mindset

Creative Confidence is defined as the belief of an individual in their ability to create change. It is conviction that you can accomplish what you set out to do. This is at the core of teaching. Teachers must believe they can create change. Teachers who have these beliefs meet challenges head on, they do not get discouraged easily, and work to continually improve their methods.

Where does the creative come in with creative confidence? In the ability to solve problems. Teachers solve problems all day long: how to best teach linear equations, how to focus the class, oh and the copier’s broken! The examples are endless. Creativity in not about an inherent gift. It is about believing in what you can do with the gifts and talents you already have and the belief that you can build upon those gifts and talents. It’s all about having a growth mindset.

Creative confident teachers believe their actions make an impact. They live in the active voice, optimistic that they may not always be right, but that they will be able to course correct. Believing that mistakes are part of learning, creative confident teachers are satisfied with forward progress, despite setbacks. They can pivot and adapt based on feedback toward workable solutions.

Teachers as Designers

Everything is a conscious decision. From the color of the chairs in the classroom, to the size of the whiteboard. Someone made a conscious decision somewhere along the line that lead to the final result. As teachers, we should view ourselves as designers. When designers they look around, they see opportunities to do things better and have a desire to change them.

Once you start to create things, you realize everything has intention behind it. Why shouldn’t you be the one to decide?

Teachers are the foot soldiers in shaping future generations. If we want to make learning more relevant, effective, and enjoyable, teachers need to be designers of these new systems. We, teachers, have the ability to be agents of change and drive both small and large scale innovations. We just need to have creative confidence, a designer’s mindset, and courage to act.


After reading Creative Confidence, it struck me just how much creative confidence and design thinking could positively impact schools and students. I wasn’t surprised to find that IDEO, the company of the authors, saw the same. They have a free comprehensive workbook: Design Thinking for Educators. Check it out – if you are interested.

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