Building Self-Esteem

The most important thing you can give your students -- more important than any subject matter -- is a sense of self-esteem. It's likely there will be students in your classroom who come to school with poor self-esteem. They won't care about their achievements or they'll shun your acknowledgment of their worth. They'll be afraid (although they may never say so) that they'll never be good at anything.

Children, like adults, need to know that others appreciate them if they are to develop self-esteem. Here are some ideas to consider:

  1. Build in success. Create situations where failure is not likely to occur, and structure tasks into a series of easy-to-achieve steps. Help the child build a chain of continuous, unbroken successes.
  2. State the positive. Stay away from typically judgmental evaluations like 'right' and 'wrong,' 'good' and 'bad.' Instead, try describing children's work, telling them what you see and how you feel about it.
  3. Capitalize on achievements. Use one success to create another. Share successes with parents through notes sent home, reading the note to the child first.
  4. Watch for sparks. Fan the tiny sparks to help the child who cannot yet grow or learn successfully to relate to you and his classmates.
  5. Share tangible evidences of success. Keep a collection of children's writing, drawings, and other work. Encourage parents to display their children's work -- all work, not just the A+ work.
  6. Make your expectations realistic. Clearly state your expectations and explore whether they resemble your students' expectations.
  7. Find ways to relieve boredom. Acknowledge when a task becomes boring and children won't resist it so much. Empathize a little!