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Kerry Dixon

Positive Thinking

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I am currently working with my Y11 form on raising their self esteem through thinking positively. I am trying to make them see the value of themselves and each other as members of society, and not just to respect academic/ sporting/ musical achievements etc.

My first step was to give each of them a list of everyone in the form and ask them to fill in 3 adjectives to describe each other. They were told only to use positive comments - if they wrote anything negative, their sheets would be binned and not taken into account. I then compiled a list of all of the adjectives used to describe each person, and gave each student their list. They were absolutely thrilled - particularly the weaker, more "difficult" students, who were gobsmacked to see themselves described positively.

I can recommend this to anyone who wants to try raising self-esteem, but I would also love to hear of any other activities that people have tried in a similar vein.

KerryD

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:rolleyes: I did this in my counselling group only last week. It's a great activity.

Along the same lines, we had to describe each other (positively) as animals, musical instruments and food, giving reasons. We had such things as : A swan, because you're graceful, a drum because you make a noise, but you have important things to say, a fish, because you're laid back and cool, a lion, because you're a leader, and you're brave, a piano, because you have alot of range and you can change a lot, a chimpanzee, because you're fun, a dog, because you're loyal, curry, because you can be fiery, sald, because you're cool, etc. You might want to give them some examples to set them off. It was great fun, and very constructive.

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Self-esteem in a British school

I'm hopeful that times have changed but my memories of school in London were of being slapped across the face by a a woman with a viscous temper, being bombarded with sarcasm by a math teacher for 2 years, having the cane used at least a couple of times a week with the admonition that when my name was entered into the book I will find it most difficult later in life to find a job.

Well,I bacame a teacher. In the process I wrote a masters thesis on adult learners and their negative memories of school. My interest was to know if any adult with a less than happy past schooling felt inclined, or not, to attend courses as an adult student.

Of the study group, thirteen (13) men and women about a third volunteered the information that not only did they not attend courses if they could help it but that the influence of violence in school perpetrated by the teaching staff "once they were in the classroom with the door shut" caused them such misery that as adults in the workplace they perceived their immediate supervisor in the same light as their past teachers and when asked to attend a meeting, or a one to one conversation they felt threatened and waited for the abuse that their teachers would dispense.

Although children need to respect others they can't do it if the do not love themselves first; this is not an ego trip. The teacher might encourage three adjectives a week about how children in class feel about themselves. AND THEN ask children to write about other people. Teachers should be brave enoughto participate in the process too, unless their ego is too fragile of course.

Peter

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I feel very sorry for you as a student and I do hope and wish that the teachers since then have really been getting strong in the dialogue art and not in the physical acts

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I agree in principle with what you're saying, and the whole point of the experience is to raise self esteem. However, if you launch straight into these activities by asking children with low self esteem to judge themselves, most of them are immediately negative - they genuinely believe they have no qualities worth naming. By showing them first of all how much other people think of them, it gives them a basis on which to build - if enough people tell them that they are a good listener, for example, they start to slowly believe that they are. Further down the line, you can then ask students to explore their own qualities - when they have developed enough confidence to tackle what is to them a very sensitive issue. They find it much easier to praise each other than themselves.

As a side note, it's also interesting how children with low self esteem respond to praise - research suggests these students respond better to low-key praise like "ok" and "good" than they do to more extravagent praise like "excellent". They apparently don't belive their work ever could be excellent, so they assume you must be lying or exaggerating. Anyone have any thoughts?

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Guest Andrew Moore

In think you are right, KerryD - that's what I see as the art of kiddology, judging things so that students know you are being truthful, with modest praise.

At the same time, some of the most able and diligent students (girls, especially) are happy not to be held up as paragons (swots, to the rest) but to get some street cred by occasional banter - you have to judge this right.

I found that there was a lot of mileage in showing students with low self-esteem, not that they could achieve multiple starred A grades (they are too shrewd for that) but that they could get respectable grades.

There is a lot of power for good in showing how earlier judgements, that cause the low self-esteem, may be unfounded - deriving, for instance, from a fussy attention of some teachers to superficial things like handwriting, or their undervaluing speaking and over-valuing writing, especially the use of standard spelling forms.

In doing this, it helps if you have been an examiner or assessor - as the pupils trust your judgement in such a case. That is, you can persuade them that your praise comes from an informed and authoritative perspective...

It can help, too, to let them see that the world they inhabit at home, if that is not pleasant, is not the whole world - that there is a prospect of something better, and that learning may be one of the ways to secure it. Again, appealing to a modest expectation of a decent and purposeful life - which, for some students, is enough to bring happiness and dignity where they were missing before.

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Guest Andrew Moore

I should add that while teachers are individually very good at raising esteem, we work, in Britain, in a system that causes and compounds these problems.

The National Curriculum and the associated tests have been amazingly successful in damaging the hopes and self-esteem, and real life-chances, of many young people.

From an early age they are exposed to tests, and when they attain low grades, feel they are letting down their parents, their teachers, and themselves. We can say that it doesn't matter, but they know about league tables, and that the school has been pushing them to succeed. The government gives them lots of chances to fail, and stacks the odds against them...

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