Self-esteem is critical when it comes to our sense of wellbeing and our ability to take action and ownership of our lives. As an educator, you can play a key role in helping students develop a healthy level of self-esteem and a positive self-image by modeling behaviors and guiding activities. The classroom has the potential to provide a safe space for students to reflect on their accomplishments, strengths, talents, and goals as well as learn how to effectively handle challenges, failure, mistakes, and conflict.
Here are four ways you can help your students boost their self-esteem:
Be a Role Model
In order for students to gain confidence, they should have a good example of how a confident person acts and handles challenges. According to Oxford Languages, confidence is “a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.” It doesn’t mean that you’re perfect or without self-doubt, but that you trust your abilities and talents enough to take chances and pursue your goals.
While focusing on the positives of taking chances is important, it’s also valuable to acknowledge challenging emotions that you’re feeling so that students understand that it’s normal to feel uncomfortable or different. For example, you could express that you’re feeling anxious to take on a new challenge, but you know it will be manageable by taking small steps. By opening up to your students and allowing yourself to be vulnerable, you can empower them to step outside of their comfort zones and try new things.
Many students are afraid to try because they’re afraid of failure. Demonstrating that effort is more important than perfection can help students feel more comfortable taking healthy risks or pursuing new hobbies. Besides showing that mistakes are normal, it’s important to let students make mistakes on their own, so that they can learn how to successfully handle failure and challenges. To create an accepting classroom environment, teachers can create a safe space for students to open up about their mistakes without judgment.
Normalizing mistakes is especially important in the era of social media, where students are continuously exposed to perfectly curated images of others. It’s key to remind students that social media only tells part of the story, and that people often don’t share their mistakes online (Child Mind Institute, n.d.).
Encourage Students to Explore their Passions
Allowing students to explore their passions and interests within the classroom is a great way to get them excited about their goals, talents, and strengths. Students can watch their abilities and skills grow in ways they never thought possible when they have time to pursue something they’re interested in every day. Seeing this development within themselves can provide inspiration, motivation, and positive feelings. Educators can facilitate this by helping students set age-appropriate goals that they’re passionate about or assigning free-form projects (Child Mind Institute, n.d.).
Lead Self-Love Activities
Intentionally setting aside time to focus on self-love activities in the classroom is a great way to help students boost their self-esteem. These activities can be anything that encourages students to focus on their accomplishments, strengths, and talents, such as:
- Journaling: Challenge students to keep a journal about their accomplishments, their goals, or things for which they’re grateful. By reflecting on their achievements, they can see how far they’ve come. Gratitude journaling provides an opportunity for students to think about what they like about themselves and their lives.
- Writing Letters: Encourage students to write letters to themselves where they reflect on their achievements and strengths. These letters can be focused on goals they’d like their future self to achieve, past accomplishments they’re proud of or a thank you letter to their present self. You can also challenge students to come up with an idea of their own.
- Achievements Collage: Give students the opportunity to get artsy by creating a visual collage that highlights their achievements. Not only does this activity encourage students to reflect, but it serves as an ongoing visual reminder (Cullins, n.d.).
Educators play a vital role in helping students build self-esteem. By normalizing mistakes, creating an accepting classroom environment, and encouraging self-exploration, you can help students develop their self-esteem and gain the confidence to pursue their goals, try new things, and take healthy risks. These efforts can help students achieve lifelong personal and academic success by empowering them to believe in themselves.
Child Mind Institute. (n.d.). 12 Tips for Raising Confident Kids. Child Mind Institute.
Cullins, A. (n.d.). Self-Confidence Building Activities for Students. Big Life Journal.