Self-esteem matters! We’ve long known that when students feel good about themselves, they are much more likely to become better achievers in the classroom.
Rapport , on the other hand, provides the base from which learning can take place. The rapport between a teacher and their students as well as among the students, plays a very important role in determining if the class will be successful and enjoyable. Students are often very hesitant to speak out in class for a variety of reasons. Questions go unasked and unanswered… students remain silent because they are afraid to lose their self- esteem by being put down in front of their classmates and peers.
“It is important for students not only to realize their own uniqueness but also feel accepted by their peers” (Reasoner, 1992, p. 46).
“Studies indicate that children who lack attention or feedback are apt to have poorer self- concepts than those who receive either positive or negative feedback on a regular basis” (Reasoner, 1992, pp. 4-5).
Back to school
WELCOME STUDENTS WITH POSITIVE THINKING POSTERS AND DISPLAYS
A PICTURE OF ME THROUGH MY PARTNER’S EYES
I ask my students to work in pairs, facing each other. They are asked to draw their partner’s portrait ,the way THEY see him/her. As soon as they finish, they show each other their drawings and both comment on them, describing their partner’s facial or body characteristics in the picture at the same time. During the next step, I ask them to exchange pictures and start writing words that describe their personalities, around the picture frame. I usually brainstorm relevant vocabulary before this activity, or use my “BE” bulletin board. (see photo above) Finally, I ask their partners to ADD 2-3 more words , from their own point of view. All pictures are displayed on the class bulletin board.
I ask the children to stand facing each other in two lines and raise their arms high,with the tips of their fingers touching, to make the Happy Tunnel! I choose a child to go through the happy tunnel.I ask the class to think of a positive thing to say to the child who is going to go through the tunnel, eg I like you/You’re great/You’re nice/You’re good at…
I ask the child to walk slowly through the tunnel. The rest of the class whisper or say their sentences.The child then comes out of the tunnel with a big smile!! If time is not enough for everyone to have a turn , I repeat the activity once or twice over several lessons.
This special activity ,which I just love, makes students feel good about themselves. It also helps them to realize how easy it is to make other people feel good too, thereby creating a positive atmosphere for learning. We should brainstorm positive adjectives to describe people, before this activity.
More adjectives students could use to describe the… protagonists: “positive, quick, friendly, unique, good- humoured, sweet, intelligent, peaceful, kind, enthusiastic, funny, witty, brave, calm, responsible, polite, angelic.”
In my class, his moment resulted to be a very special one. Some students expressed how moved they felt and they thanked their friends for what they have shared.
This activity helped to honour their uniqueness, it focused on their good qualities contributing to develop a positive self- image.
TEACHER AND STUDENTS WRITE TO EACH OTHER
I usually do this activity as soon as we come back to school. But, it’s nice to keep this letters exchange going , both between the teacher and the students and among the students, throughout the school year! In my classroom, there is a letter box we use to do so…We open it ,every Friday, to read our mail!!
I give children the opportunity to tell me a few things they like about themselves. I prompt them to state things they can do well, things they feel good about. I am always surprised at how many children suffering with low self-esteem have difficulty with this task – I usually ,need to provide prompts.
I always make sure that, in my reply letter I help them build self-esteem through praise and affirmations.
ME IN A BAG
I bring a sack with a running shoe, a bread pan, a piece of stained glass, something of my daughter’s etc .I group students and dump a few things on each table.Then, I give them a few minutes to say what they think each item says about me !I invite them to bring their own sack on the following day and I am always surprised of how many kids actually, bring one! It is fun to see how excited the kids get when they discover that a classmate has something in common with them. They are so proud to talk about their special talents and interests, in front of their classmates! When it is my kids’ turn to let their classmates guess about the items in their bags, they share so many personal stories, too! This activity, definitely boosts their self-esteem!
A BALL OF YARN
I bring a ball of yarn in class. Then, I ask the students to say their name and an interesting fact about themselves. Holding the end, they toss the ball to another student. That student will say their name and an intersting fact or what makes them unique! By the time everyone has spoken , there will be a large web of yarn which reminds the students of the bond we share with each other!
I’d say that, these activities have been of utmost important in helping each student feel unique in front of his/her classmates and to develop group bonds. Students were able to understand what the other was feeling.
Quoting White (1997), “For a short time the academic curriculum is set aside and affective education, i.e. education of the emotions, is dealt with in a structured way.” “When harmony reigns, learning flourishes”.
Self-esteem is needed life-long and we need to remember the important role we play to enhance or damage a child’s self-esteem.