2. Building self-esteem

As a teacher, one of your most important roles is to encourage and support your pupils as learners and people.

An educational psychologist called Abraham Maslow has identified some emotional needs that are important in order to learn well. These include feelings of:

  • safety and security;
  • love and belonging;
  • self-esteem.

Every pupil has the desire for high achievement, which can be measured by self-esteem. Pupils show this in the classroom by being keen to answer questions. If they feel stupid, it damages their self-esteem and discourages them.

However, if you show them their answers might be right or are interesting, it boosts pupils’ self-esteem and encourages participation and high achievement.

You can encourage this in the classroom by being a positive and affirmative teacher. This means:

  • being positive and respectful so pupils feel confident enough to contribute;
  • making sure that nobody is made to feel stupid or embarrassed when contributing their ideas;
  • making sure that everybody understands the lesson’s most important focus.

To do this, you need to develop teaching strategies that do not reject any answer that is given, but you use the pupils’ responses to guide them to think more deeply. By doing this, you will be building pupils’ self-esteem.

Case Study 2: Being a positive and affirmative teacher

William had been able to encourage pupils in his Grade 5 class to contribute to most lessons through the sharing activities he uses as part of his everyday lessons. The pupils began by making contributions in small groups, and soon were confident enough to start making contributions in front of the whole class.

To make sure he didn’t damage the pupils’ self-esteem, he planned how he would handle their contributions.

  • He would ask the class a question. If pupils wanted to answer, they put their hands up and he would choose someone.
  • If they gave the correct answer straight away, he would praise them with phrases like: ‘Well done!’, ‘Very good!’, ‘Excellent!’
  • If the pupil gave an answer that wasn’t quite right, he was careful not to say ‘No’ or ‘Wrong’. Instead, he would say something neutral like: ‘Almost’, ‘Nearly’, or ‘Not quite’. He might ask the pupil to ‘Try again’ and give them a clue or prompt to help them think a little harder.
  • If the pupil was stuck, William moved on quickly, saying: ‘Can anyone else help us?’

Over time he noticed how much more confident they became.

Activity 2: Building self-esteem

One way to build self-esteem is to help your pupils recognise their own skills.

  • Ask your pupils to describe different kinds of things they enjoy doing, both at home and in school.
  • Now ask them to think about which activities they are particularly good at.
  • Organise them into groups. Then ask each pupil to identify three special skills they have and share these with the group.
  • Ask them individually to write about these skills and draw pictures of themselves doing each activity. Display them on the wall.
  • In the next lesson, extend this by asking your pupils to discuss what they would like to be or do when they grow up.

1. Teaching children to share

3. Creating a caring environment