We can teach these boys and girls the curriculum with flare. We can differentiate our teaching to accommodate each learner. We can be engaging, funny, clever, and witty. You can even throw technology at them and say, “Play! Show me the world!” But if you never address the heart of the child, you will continue to look in the back of the room and see a child who stares down, slouches and talks quietly. We all have these students. They aren’t the kids who answer questions, shooting their arms to the sky as if their favourite team just scored a goal. They aren’t the kids who volunteer to do every class job possible. They aren’t the kids who others look at and say I want to hang out with him. So, unfairly they continue to build up the brick wall that they continue to willingly, but not by choice, hide behind.
So here is where us as leaders, mentors, teachers and guardians can pull their trowel away from their hands and help them kick the wall down. We have the power to boost morale. Brene Brown states that the only difference between low and high self-esteem is the belief that you are worthy. Worthy of being loved, worthy of friendship, worthy of…
Time to reminisce, as Happy Gilmore said, “Go to your happy place!” What came to your mind? For me, it was small acts of kindness, people going out of their way to make me feel worthy. Family, friends, classmates, TEACHERS all create these small moments that shape our own perceptions. You have the potential to change a child’s emotional state every day.
I believe that self-esteem leads to motivation and, in turn, motivation leads to engagement. I also believe engagement narrates ones learning. The curriculum is there to be learned, however, without positive self-esteem a student’s brain is a pre-soaked sponge of negativity, filled with thoughts of worthlessness. The sponge is full before it enters the classroom. The sponge can’t absorb the curriculum, no matter how well it is delivered.
As a teacher we have the capability to squeeze out that sponge and provide our students with a blank slate for learning, so to speak. In the morning wait at your door, give high fives and compliment them on their new red elastics on their braces. Refrain from grabbing a red pen and circling repetitive grammatical errors. Rather, grab a green pen and compliment them on their creativity. Let them know that nobody is perfect but your use of a comma here and that period there IS perfect! Don’t just throw a ‘heard it all before comment’ like “nobody is better at being you than you.” But rather, if they like to graffiti their binder, give them some white out and a spare binder and say, “Nobody is as good as you when it comes to decorating, can you decorate mine?” In other words, do whatever you can to make all your students smile and feel worthy. We can only control the classroom environment, and within the classroom we should strive to create moments of positivity, moments of self-expression, moments where they can truly show what they can do. Knowing that they are worthy of their teacher’s approval will lift up those slouching shoulders. Help increase self-esteem and maybe you too will get a boy come to you and say, “Thank you for letting me be me! And thank you for letting me walk the catwalk!”