Self-esteem is not…

self esteemBuilding self-esteem is NOT about creating false expectations that the world will be easy.

It IS about showing kids that they have talents and can please people.

Building self-esteem is NOT about cultivating self-centered kids who expect the world to bow to them.

It IS about healing children’s hearts that have been broken by broken families.

Self-esteem is NOT about deluded them about competition and making them think they will win without effort, discipline and vision.

It IS about fostering effort, discipline and vision in people who have none.

Self-esteem is NOT about flattery or false praise.

It IS about finding positives in a world accustomed to negatives.

I’m a believer in self-esteem building. My close friend came from a very broken home. I can’t print the words he used to describe his parents. He had an old school teacher who ran his classroom like a dictatorship. As much of a jerk as he was, the teacher left my friend with a golden nugget. At the end of the semester he said. “It’s too bad you waste so much talent.”

My friend’s take-away? For the first time in his life, he got the notion that he was good at something. He possessed “so much talent.”

This prompted him to try to get into an advanced writing class, to which he was admitted. Ultimately he went to college, the first in his extended family to do so.

That is what self-esteem building is about.


Believe relentlessly in your students

teachers foster self-esteemI have a student who’s been historically a goofball. He frequently misses class, sometimes sleeps in class, likes to skip homework and works hard just to get a C.

Yet there have been moments when he has joined class discussion — and I was impressed by great intelligence. I see in his fun-loving attitude an emotional healthiness (he won’t be suffering from high blood pressure). He could be a good lawyer because he’s quick to analyze and think of his feet.

Juan (they always call that no-name example “Johnny”) comes weighted down by “at-home problems.” The psychological chaos from his disintegrated/disintegrating family interferes with his ability to learn. He needs to find at school what his parents are coming up short in giving: love. He needs to find someone who believes in him.

Sometimes its not the lesson plan. Maybe your student won’t be Harvard-accepted. Still, a teacher is called to make a life-long impact in the lives of his students. And he must looks past the sting of open rebellion.

A teacher must believe in her students RELENTLESSLY. She must believe in them because nobody else does. She must continue to believe in them because if not they’re going to fall into drugs or cut their wrists. Our society is a society of rejection, and a teacher fills the roll of accepting students. No matter how bad is your student, you must look for that glimmer of hope, that spark of talent. No one in this world is without some gift. It is the teacher’s job to ferret it out, to bring it to the attention of the student, to cause they student to believe in himself.

This is even more important than fulfilling academic standards.