As I sat in my favourite café writing this article, my daughter and her two friends (high school sophomores) worked on an extracurricular United Nations project. After I wrote the article, I thought to ask them “what can your teachers do to build your self-esteem?”
I was so excited that they mentioned all of the tips I have provided below.
Be an inspiration.
Inspire your students with your personality and teaching methods. Find ways to make learning in your classroom fun, creative and interesting. This takes practice, so don’t be discouraged if you try something and it doesn’t work right away. Being creative and inspirational requires a certain comfort level with your curriculum and teaching environment. Be aware that students pay attention to your enthusiasm and often respond accordingly. You also don’t have to be an extroverted superstar to be an inspiration. Being genuine and passionate go a long way in the classroom.
Don’t be afraid to remind your students that you love teaching and that you want them to succeed. This advice applies to every discipline. Some of my friends in the Sciences used to say that they had less flexibility to be fun and creative, but I always disagreed. The most outstanding and inspirational teachers I had were from Engineering, Science and Math disciplines (areas that I always struggled in).
Be honest about your own journey.
Let your students know about some of the struggles you had as a student. I overcame various struggles during my academic and career pursuits. I remind students that “life happens” and often takes us in new, exciting and sometimes overwhelming directions. It is important to let them know that they do not have to be perfect at everything. The idea that students must be perfect in every subject is a very real problem in our school systems today. It can cause an incredible amount of stress and anxiety for students. Be a superhero to them but remind them that you are not superhuman and that you learned as much, if not more, from your mistakes and failures as you did from your successes.
Encourage. Encourage. Encourage.
Teachers are trained to provide feedback. Constructive feedback is important. How you provide your feedback has an impact on their self-esteem. Find ways to provide corrections in a way that encourages them to try harder next time. It is counterproductive to provide feedback in a way that makes students feel overwhelmed and anxious. Be very clear with your students about how they can better prepare for their next assignment. This requires being accessible to your students.
Connect their interests to your course content.
Everyone can excel, if you nurture his/her interests and passions. As an Undergraduate student, I avoided taking Statistics courses. I thought that I was terrible at Math. This changed when I finally had an inspirational teacher. He understood that in order to learn statistics, students needed examples that related to their interests. He spent the first class asking us what we were interested in. I became one of the top students in my statistics class. I have tried to do the same in my teaching. I love when students comment that I tricked them into doing more work, because they were so excited about the topics.
Remember, students feed off of your energy and confidence. Nurture their interests, give feedback that builds their self-esteem and most importantly, be accessible and real.
By Dr Jan L Jones
Dr. Jones (Ph.D.) has 10 years of full time teaching and advising experience in leisure, sustainable tourism and global education. Her research has taken her to Cuba, Portugal, Germany, Ireland, Jordan, Jamaica, Cyprus, and Crete.