teacher studentIt is important to help our students feel valued.  For many teachers, although we see students every single day, it can be very hard to remember what it was actually like to be a kid. Our hardy, grown-up personalities have weathered through decades of disappointments (with some delights thrown in for good measure), and although everyone has a lot more ‘growing’ to do in life, most of us have accrued enough self-esteem and resilience points to see us through the tough times.

However, many teachers forget that for children emotions can get to the better of them and can start to affect their learning.  Going through the school system is where many of us begin building these skills for life and at times.  It’s during this time that we can help make our students feel valued as individuals.

Developing personalities need a strong and secure environment in order to flourish in academia. Here then are tips for how teachers can raise self-esteem and make every single student in their class get the most out of education by feeling valued as an individual.

Every Kid needs a Champion

In a TED talk by Rita F Pierson, she recounts a conversation she had with a teacher who told her that she wasn’t paid to like the kids; she was only there to teach. Rita reminded her that ‘kids don’t learn from people they don’t like’ and explained to the teacher that she would have a very hard time getting through to the children with that kind of negative outlook, and it turns out Rita was right.

It’s very difficult for a child to remain focused on the task at hand when they feel like their teacher doesn’t care if they succeed or fail. Aspy and Roebuck examined over 3700 hours of classroom instruction and found that;

“Students learn more and behave better when they receive high levels of understanding, caring and genuineness, than when they are given low levels of them. It pays to treat students as sensitive and aware human beings.”

Rita recommends that for the teachers who have a hard time getting along with certain pupils’ personalities, then they must instead become ‘great actors and actresses’ who never show it and who will also never give up on a student, no matter how challenging they may be.

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Get to Know your Students

Getting to know your students can be difficult for teachers who see a lot of students every day. However, learning more about your pupils as individuals is essential for situations where there may be conflict and for building positive pupil/teacher relationships that will see individuals coming to you if they’re struggling with anything academically or are having any other difficulties. At the start of the school year, get your pupils to introduce themselves and explain a few of their likes and dislikes. Alternatively, a personal essay can be submitted as homework if your lesson time is limited.

Listen to them

It may not always be apparent to the teacher staring at a classroom full of bored students, but pupils do come with certain expectations of you as a teacher, and therefore it is wise to engage with them every now and then and ask them for some constructive feedback for you. This will not only help you improve your methods, but will also invite the individuals in your class to assess how much they have learned, as well as affirming the trusting relationships you are trying to develop with your class.

Be Consistent

Children often judge an adult’s character by their actions; therefore it is vital that you are consistent in how you treat your students. One interesting blog post from a principal outlines an incident that occurred at his school, where one high attaining pupil complained that her good behavior and hard work was rarely recognized by the teacher. Here is a summary of what she said;

“You know, I work my butt off in class, always do well, always help others, yet when I do one thing wrong, you get on my case. You never tell me how good I am at the work that I do, but only get on my case when I do something wrong.  Then you have another student who goofs around all of the time, does no work, and when he does well on one test, you act like you are going to throw him a parade.  Do you think that I don’t like the recognition? It seems really unfair.”

Principal Couros concluded that although the pupil didn’t technically need recognition every time she did something well in order to motivate herself,  he conceded that educators do need to remember to be consistent in how they treat students, in order to make everyone feel valued, no matter what they achieve.

Reward and Encourage Them

Learning the difference between praise and encouragement is key to rewarding your students effectively. Praise places a value judgment on the end result, for example, a teacher who praises might say that an essay was ‘excellent’ – which it may well be. However, pupils who consistently hear value judgments placed on their work may start to ‘crave’ praising statements and may feel discouraged when the teacher doesn’t say that a particular piece of work is ‘great.’

Encouraging statements on the other hand acknowledge the efforts that the student put towards writing that excellent essay, and therefore the teacher might say something along the lines of, ‘I can see that you conducted a lot of research for this essay’ or ‘you showed the conflicting points of view in a fair and accurate way.’ Comments that highlight the students’ efforts do a lot more for their self-esteem than undirected praise because these statements encourage the student to perform a self-assessment of their work which in turn builds their levels of intrinsic motivation with their studies.

Encouraging statements can also be used even when the student fails at something, for instance, if a student scores an own goal in soccer practice, even a comment as simple as, ‘you hung in there and didn’t give up’ still raises pupils’ self-esteem. So make sure that when you are giving rewards, you include encouraging statements along with the actual token, sticker, stamper or whatever it may be to ensure that intrinsic as well as extrinsic motivation is raised.

If you have any comments on how you can make your pupils feel valued as individuals, please leave a comment below.

Photo By: Renato Ganoza

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