I recently found my little cousin reading during her playtime. I wondered if she had a test coming up, but her response was somewhat unnerving. According to her, she didn’t have a test, but she was reading because “Whenever I raise my hand to answer any question asked in class, my teacher would say “put your hands down you can’t know it.” Wow! I encouraged her to get over it, but that got me thinking about how her self-esteem was getting depleted in the very place it was supposed to get a boost.
Studies have confirmed long ago that when students feel good about themselves, they are much more likely to become better achievers in the classroom. Every student desires to learn and be successful in school. If they are not, we must strive to understand the nature of their learning problems. When students acquire healthy levels of self-confidence, they are better equipped to face the stress of school. Students with self-confidence pay more attention in class, get along better with their peers and generally have a more focused and inquisitive attitude. If students are demonstrating self-defeating behaviours such as quitting, not trying, or acting like the class clown or class bully, we must recognize these are ineffective coping strategies that often mask feelings of vulnerability, low self-esteem, and hopelessness. Rather than impose punitive consequences, we must ask how to minimize the despair these youngsters experience each and every day.
To lessen the use of these ineffective coping behaviours, educators need to teach these youngsters in ways they can learn best and make accommodations when needed. Each child or adolescent possesses areas of strength that should be identified, reinforced, and displayed by their teachers. Teaching to the child’s strengths does not deny the child’s problems but recognizes the importance of using the child’s strengths as an important component of any intervention program. Building students’ confidence by setting them up for success and providing positive feedback along with frequent praise are essential tools for both teachers and parents. Think about yourself, the more confident you feel, the better you feel about the task at hand and your ability to do it. These are ways to help grow your students’ self-esteem.
1. Always Accentuate the Positive
Prompt children to state things they can do well, things they feel good about. Give children the opportunity to tell you 10 things they like about themselves. You will be surprised at how many children suffering from low self-esteem have difficulty with this task. (This is also a great beginning of the year activity).
Those suffering from low self- esteem tend to focus on the negative. You’ll hear statements like: ‘Oh, I am no good at that”. This may indicate that this person needs to like themselves more.
2. Give Only-Genuine Praise
If you provide empty praise, they will not feel as motivated to push themselves harder. Provide positive feedback to your students when appropriate. Tell them when they’ve done a good job on an exam or report. Children thrive on praise and will push themselves to do well if they know you will be proud of them for their achievements.
3. Avoid criticism
Focus on constructive feedback. Praise effort and highlight ways to improve as those suffering from low self-esteem struggle the most when given criticism. Be sensitive to this. Always remember that self-esteem is about how much children feel valued, appreciated, accepted, loved and having a good sense of self-worth. Understand that as parents and teachers, you play one of the biggest roles in how good or bad a child can feel about themselves. Influence from a parent or teacher can make and break a child’s sense of self-esteem. Don’t abuse it.
4. Set realistic goals for each student
Recognize that every child is different and has different learning capabilities. Make goals realistically achievable so that children will feel a sense of accomplishment when the goal is completed. Don’t make tasks too easy or too challenging.
5. Use teaching strategies that provide an opportunity for equal participation
In the classroom, arrange chairs in a circle so that all students have the opportunity to make eye contact with each other. Students learn confidence from trying to answer questions and solve problems on their own.
6. Create an open, positive environment for learning
Get to know your students on an individual level. Call them by name when you ask them a question. Give them credit for trying even when they give the wrong answer.
7. Show enthusiasm for the subject you are teaching and for your students’ success
Students will become bored and apathetic if they sense that you are bored or distracted. If you are enthusiastic about your students’ success, your students will also be more motivated to achieve their goals.
8. Turn Errors and mistakes inside out
Turn mistakes inside out and focus on what was or will be learned from the mistake. This helps a child focus on the positive, not the negative. Remind students that everyone makes mistakes but, how those mistakes are handled makes the difference. We need to see them as learning opportunities. All students are concerned about making mistakes and looking foolish. However, youngsters with learning problems typically experience more failure situations than peers who do not have these problems. Thus, they are even more vulnerable and fearful of failing.
Self-esteem is an important component of almost everything children do. Not only will it help with academic performance, but it also supports social skills and makes it easier for children to have and keep positive relationships with peers and teachers. Children are also better equipped to cope with mistakes, disappointment, and failure; they are more likely to stick with challenging tasks and complete learning activities. Self-esteem is needed life-long and teachers need to remember they play an important role in nurturing a student’s sense of dignity.