SELF-CONCEPT DEVELOPMENT – I have a book called What You Think of Me is None of My Business by Terri Cole-Whittaker. However, this is not how we live our lives. What others think of us really does matter. It matters so much that it will determine how we feel and what we do. We all want to be loved-liked-admired-cared about.
Our “self” is very fragile and important. This self is formed early in life. Preschool teachers have a huge impact in this formation.
How do teachers contribute to or hinder this formation? There are so many word parts of “self” that we can think of and reflect on.
Let’s begin with SELF-AWARENESS. Self-awareness is knowing about yourself. Teachers can start awareness with infants. Looking in the mirror, point out yourself and the baby; talking about the body parts (face, eyes, nose, etc.); explaining facial expressions; singing songs about the baby and yourself and the other children; commenting on what is going on; making a story book of the child; having families send in pictures and do a family book or a timeline; having the children do self-portraits.
If you know some other Self-Awareness activities, let me know.
Let us move on to SELF-CONFIDENCE and SELF-ESTEEM. When you are sure in your abilities to achieve something you have self-confidence. When you believe you can, you can. And you do.
This year I am reading a daily devotional called The Confident Woman by Joyce Meyer. We can all use a dose of confidence. But it is a cycle! When we do something good, we feel proud. When we feel proud, we try some new things or challenges. When we succeed in the new things, we feel even prouder. The more we succeed the prouder we become the more confidence we feel to take on even more new things.
Sometimes teachers think that if they praise a child and say “Good Job” often enough, a child will get confidence. But it does not work like that. You feel confidence for your tangible, touchable, do-able achievements. And really, you do not need anyone to tell you “Good Job”. You feel it in yourself. You are the cake and all other comments are just icing and flowers on the cake.
What’s a teacher to do?
Intentionally set up successful experiences for children.
- Whenever a chi ld is trying to learn a new task (toilet learning, buttoning on clothing, zipping, buttoning, pouring, sitting up, rolling over, etc.) give lots of support and suggestions – without hovering or interfering.
- Give every child in your classroom a responsibility. Have a Job Chart and rotate the duties weekly. This way each child has a whole week to learn and practice and improve in the assigned tasks. Every child also has a chance during the school year to try each role. Not only will each child contribute to the classroom community but also succeeding in a job.
- Acknowledging a child’s success in common things and let them know you understand the effort they made to achieve. The common things are the little things that we sometimes take for granted: paying attention, taking a first step, pulling up, listening to the whole story, putting the toys away, eating, saying please or thank you, not taking something away from someone else, not biting, etc.
Only three ideas for now, but not easy to do. They take practicing and making them a habit. They take observing and paying attention to children and being aware of their efforts and attempts and progress.
Not easy, but essential.