I have learned from many wise people (including the children that I have taught over the years) that nurturing a child’s self-esteem is one of the most important jobs a teacher has.
Here are some ways to help, repair and enhance a child’s self-esteem:
- If you have to discipline a child (especially in front of the entire class) find a way to compliment that child within an hour. There are many ways to compliment children:
- “Thank you for _____.” Use this if you disciplined a child and he did as you asked right away. For example, “Thank you for apologizing to _____.”
- “I like the way you used good eye contact when you spoke with me.”
- “I like the way you are sitting up nice and tall in your chair. You are ready to learn!”
- “Nice handwriting!”
- “You seem to be trying your best now. I’m proud of you!”
- If the child is raising his hand to answer a question, call on him. If he gets it right, praise him for a good job.
- If a child answers a question wrong, nevermake him feel like a failure. You can always say:
- “Good try!”
- “You were so close!”
- “Thank you for taking a risk and trying!”
- “I can see how you may have thought that, but _____.”
- If I made a mistake in front of the children, I was very proud if a student caught my mistake. I would say, “Outstanding job, (student’s name)! You were really paying attention. If you were not paying attention, you would not have caught that mistake!”
- Sometimes I would make a “mistake” on purpose to see if my children were paying attention and give the children who were paying attention some positive reinforcement.
- There were some days that one particular child seemed to “act up” all day. I’ve learned that the best way to solve this situation was to quietly speak with that child while the others were doing independent work or for a few minutes during recess. I would ask him what was bothering him or if there was anything that he wanted to share with me. Sometimes I would tell him that it seemed to me that something was troubling him and I would ask if there was anything that I could do to help. (I can’t begin to tell you the true stories I’ve heard from the children over the years. Once children trust you, they will open up to you and give you more opportunities to help them; and once you understand them, you will better know how to teach them!)
- Sometimes misbehavior comes from either the children being frustrated because they can’t keep up with the other children or the opposite problem—being bored. Remember that each child has his own learning style, and sometimes teachers have to tweak their lessons or teach them using different learning styles to reach the children that need extra help.
- When you have a parent meeting, always begin with positive comments. I can’t express how important this is! Remember, parents have feelings (very strong ones about their “babies”) and you need to nurture their feelings during parent conferences. Of course, there will come times when you will need to meet with parents about a problem their child is having. Before the meeting make a list of positive comments—to talk about first!—and a list of possible solutions to solve the problem(s) that exist. Never let a parent leave a meeting feeling helpless, hopeless or in tears!
I’ve been blogging for a while about children’s self-esteem and it always comes to this: Nurturing their spirit affects all aspects of their learning!
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