Thursday, 17 August 2017

Building Self-Esteem in the Classroom

If this is your first year teaching or your twentieth, you know that students come to you from very different backgrounds, languages, experiences and needs.  Getting to know your students is never easy.  Even with parent conferences, documentation from previous teachers, or questionnaires, your goal is to know your students well while providing a safe place to learn and grow.  My greatest memories as an elementary school teacher are not of the students who were outspoken, commanded attention or were "good" at everything.  It was of the students who came into the classroom painfully shy, uncertain and a bit overwhelmed.  Those were the students who needed me most.  They needed a boost of confidence and a place the build their self-esteem.  The suggestions I provide below may not work for everyone but they certainly helped with ways to jumpstart discussions and to build a classroom community.

The Magic Box




As a decorative artist, I always look for ways to create whimsical things for the classroom.  This box was made of wood and was a blank one waiting to be brought to life.   I used acrylic paint to "wash" the box inside and out.  Then, I painted some fun designs to make the box inviting.  The box opens up to reveal something "magical" I tell my students.  As I gather them in a circle, class by class has had a peek into the box.  I ask the students to slowly peek inside the box, close it and pass the box to the next student.  This activity is completed with "no" words.  I have used the box from grades 1 through 6 and each group of students have different reactions:  smiles, surprises and looks of wonder.


The box contains a mirror that is glued in.  Why a mirror?  It showcases the greatest gift to our classroom:  the student!  I tell the students before they open the box that they are going to see something magical and wonderful.  There is nothing else like it.  It is one of a kind.  Beginning the school year with these powerful messages sets the tone for the year.  Everyone is valued, everyone is respected, everyone is validated.

By mid-October, students are very comfortable in the classroom and usually the quietest ones are the ones who come and tell you things about themselves when you least expect it.  

Read Alouds



What I Like About Me! by Allia Zobel Nolan is a fun way to build self-esteem with younger students.  It's a message about being different and why that can be a special thing.  At the end of the story about wearing braces, glasses or even having large feet, you will find a mirror.  The mirror is a way to take a look at what makes the students so special: a great way to reflect about themselves.

Blessings Jar



The Blessings Jar was introduced to find a way to bring students closer together.  The jar includes little blessings discovered throughout the day.  I began putting blessings in the jar but as the year unfolded, the students would add things to the jar as well.  These could include thank you notes to other students for their help, things they are grateful for and random acts of kindness.  Reading the blessings during our weekly gathering was a great way to set the tone for the rest of the day.  For a free link to the jar labels, click here.

Know Your Students


If you show that you have an interest in your students' hobbies, likes, and dislikes, you become the caring classroom teacher.  Yes, we teach the curriculum but we also teach students.  I begin my first week of school with an "All About Me" showcase.  I often ask for empty shoeboxes from colleagues, parents and will often collect them from friends and family.  The shoebox becomes a treasure chest for the "Me" Showcase.  Students are asked to select 5 artifacts that describe them well.  I often create my own box and go through a "me" presentation.  I bring a family photo, a paintbrush, Zumba gear, a piece of jewellry that I have made, and a writing tool.  I ask the students to predict what they may mean to me. While I introduce each artifact, I tell, relate and reflect upon each one.  The outside of the box is decorated with whatever the students like.  Some students have attached hockey cards, stickers, ribbon, decals, logos, etc.

With older students, I provide a planning sheet, prompts and rubric to help guide them.  Students are encouraged to practice at home first.  The boxes are presented over a week with anywhere between 5 and 7 presentations a day.  I often introduce jot note taking as well during the activity.  Students are encouraged to take jot notes of 2 of the 5 or 7 presentations.  They then pick one jot note to summarize.  This is all modelled through my presentation first.  For the "All About Me" presentation guide, click on the link here.



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