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Lesson Plans

Re: low self-esteem

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Sharon Barrett Kennedy (sharonbk)
Thu, 21 Oct 1999 20:24:00 -0400

Time is, indeed, part of the challenge when trying to help raise students'
self-esteem, but I feel it's critical to make time to write the post-it
notes, to give a quick, private thank you, to notice what they're doing
right, to show up for their sporting events--or whatever--whenever possible,
and to celebrate their achievements, whenever you find them, and whenever
they're moving even SLIGHTLY in the right direction.

As a disclaimer to this, I now teach in a small private school and I KNOW
that it's much, much harder to keep up with this when the number of students
increases. But in principle, I feel that positive praise can work wonders.

I was "warned" about several students I'd have in my classes this
year--about how they had a tendency to be very "difficult" (i.e. talking
back, being sarcastic, disruptive, suspended for cursing at teachers, etc.,
etc.). While I can't say there haven't been ANY incidents this year, I've
really been amazed at how most of them have responded to *sincere* positive
praise, gentle humor, and being seen as people (and not just "students.")

I just finished my first round of teacher conferences, and two sets of
guardians (not parents--lots of dsyfunctional families these kids are
dealing with) asked if I was sure I was talking about their kid when I
described them in class as courteous, helpful, attentive, etc.

On Monday, one girl said that her guardian still wasn't sure--even after the
conference--that I had the right student in describing her, because of the
nice things I said. I told her to come back after school, and when she
did, I had a note ready for her to take home--reiterating that she'd been
pleasant, helpful, and cooperative and that she was a joy to teach. And she
DOES exhibit those qualities in my class, partly, I think, because I've
praised her (and all of the others) whenever I can, and I try to take the
time to get to know them (starting with an interest questionnaire at the
beginning of school.)

There are still moments, there are still students I'm having trouble
reaching. Some days I seriously question my effectiveness, and other days
I'm so pumped up because they "got it" (whatever "it" was). But the
commitment that I made in wanting to be a teacher included a commitment to
teach the child and not just a subject..... (And, again, my sympathies to
teachers who find their classes so difficult and disruptive that it's next
to impossible to even begin to teach the subject....)

I go home each day absolutely exhausted, but--at least MOST days--it's a
"good" exhausted.

(daughter of a retired vo-tech teacher who should have written the book on
motivating, inspiring, and reaching difficult students, and who remains my
primary mentor.)