Self-Esteem and Confidence, the Ultimate Health Skills
Ten Ways to Help Boost Your Students' Self-Esteem and Confidence
Are self-esteem and confidence the most important health skills???
The longer I teach health, the more convinced I am that self-esteem (loving and valuing yourself) and confidence (believing in yourself and trusting your abilities) are the absolute most important traits needed to live a whole and healthy life.
Yes, of course, kids need to learn how to communicate, be active, build healthy relationships, eat healthily, etc... to be "healthy." But if we dig a little deeper, it's clear each health skill we teach and promote is built on a foundation of self-esteem and confidence. And without either of these, students' ability to or interest in living out those skills greatly diminishes.
So let's chat about why you should and how you can boost your students' self-esteem and confidence!
Why Self-Esteem and Confidence Matter...
Students who love themselves, believe they are worthy and know they are capable are happier and healthier.
Students who love themelseves think things like:
"I love myself enough to take ownership and responsibility of my life."
"I know I have value and I am worthy of living my best life possible."
Kids who believe in their ablities and know who they are, say things like:
"I know who I am and I am secure in my identity."
"I know I am capable so I will keep working until I reach my goal."
"I know that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness."
More specifically related to our goals as skills-based health educators, when students love and believe in themselves, they are better able to:
- Advocate for themselves in relationships
- Make decisions based on their values and no one else's
- Know what they need and want out of life and can create goals to get there
- Become leaders, not followers
- Don't give in to negative peer pressure
- Set big goals for themselves and work until they've reached it
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How to Boost Self-Esteem and Confidence
Empowering students to live with self-esteem and confidence is not a one-off lesson plan or a sporadic Social Emotional Learning (SEL) initiative. It's a daily commitment to your students.
Here are ten things you can do in your classroom to boost your students' self-esteem and confidence and highlight SEL:
1. Praise the Process and Students' Work Ethic
Students aren't always going to get the results they want, even when they work hard. So it's important to not focus praise on the end result but rather the process and work ethic students exhibited along the way.
If praise is deeply tied to the end result, once the results aren't there, students may begin to doubt their ability and their self-confidence can waiver.
Blog Post: The Ultimate Guide to Praising Your Kids by Big Life Journal
2. Normalize Failure
Even though failure is a regular part of life, it's too easy for students (and us adults) to become so afraid of failing that they don't even try. For this reason, we need to create space for failure in our classrooms and teach students about the necessity and value of failure.
Failing does not mean you are incapable or unintelligent. It simply means that you need to recalibrate and try again with a different approach. Every time a student fails and gets back, their self-confidence grows.
Resource: YouTube Playlist: Benefits of Failure
3. Create Autonomy
By letting students make choices, you're telling them you believe in their ability. In turn, your confidence helps to boost their confidence. So, whenever and wherever possible in your classroom, give students autonomy and watch their confidence rise.
Ways to Let Kids Excercise Autonomy: Choose who they work with, the focus of their project, type of presentation they create, the book they read, the scenario they analyze, etc...
4. Provide Diverse Options
Give students an opportunity to be successful in a number of different ways. I don't have to tell you that every student has a variety of interests and strengthens. By giving students options, you're creating more opportunities for students to nurture their individual talents and passions.
For Example: One of my favorite things I've been seeing teachers use is a learning menu (a.k.a. a choice board). Learn more here and here.
5. Ask for Their Advice and Insight
Sometimes we teachers like to talk a little too much. While it may not seem like a big deal, by over-explaining and overstepping we're subconsciously (and sometimes consciously) telling students we don't trust their ability.
Rather, when we ask them for their advice, we're saying, "I trust you, you're intelligent and capable and I think you have valuable insight to add." When students see we are confident in their ability, they can better feel confident in themselves.
6. Push and Challenge Students
Each time we accomplish something we previously thought impossible, we become more and more confident. This is why it's important that we push students out of their comfort zone and challenge them to do things beyond their current range.
Remember: As we push and challenge students, we must always give guidance and support.
7. Set Realistic Expectations
Few things feel worse than when we have an expectation of what we're going to do and then fail. We feel down on ourselves, question our ability, and start to lose confidence.
This is why it's so important that we help students set realistic goals and expectations. Of course, we always want to push and challenge them but we don't want their dreams to be so unrealistic that they're always falling short and feeling discouraged.
Blog Post: Teaching Middle Schoolers How to Write S.M.A.R.T. Goals
8. You Are Enough
It's vitally important that students believe they are enough as they are. Yes, we want them to grow, learn, and become greater. But students also need to know that exactly who they are now is perfect.
9. Peer-to-Peer Recognition
Give students opportunities to praise each other. We all crave validation and recognition from our peers. Receiving compliments about their strengths helps enhance students' confidence.
Free Resource: Studnet Acknowledgment Cards
10. Model Self-Esteem and Confidence
As always, one of the most important ways to teach students a skill or trait is to actively model it in our own lives. Here are a few ways you can model self-esteem and confidence:
- Treat yourself with love and kindness
- Acknowledge when you mess up, fail, or make mistakes
- Ask for help when you're confused or stuck
- Be proud and unapologetic about who you are and what you stand for
- Set big goals for yourself and share the progress with your students
Building Self-Esteem and Confidence is a Marathon
As much as some SEL blog posts and resources would like us to believe, we can't just teach a few lessons a year, put up some posters, or organize an assembly and think that's enough. No, instilling self-esteem and confidence in a child is a marathon.
If we want students to love themselves and believe they are capable, messages of self-esteem and confidence must be the beating heart of your teaching. Woven into every lesson, activity, and conversation.
Take it one day at a time and before you know it, your students are going to be overflowing with self-esteem and confidence!
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A middle school health teacher turned curriculum developer (and #WAHM). I'm on a mission to share the easiest-to-teach, most impactful health lesson plans on the Internet. Because your time and energy is better spent on teaching and connecting, not on planning and prep.
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