The Progression of Self-Esteem in School
A person’s self-esteem develops and changes throughout their lifespan. Self-esteem starts at home, first with interactions with parents and family, and then progresses through school where it’s impacted by teachers and peers.
Self-esteem sets the academic and social path for many students. Those with positive self-esteem have better school attendance, earn better grades, and have more positive interactions with their peers. Healthy self-esteem is also associated with more independence and positive risk taking, such as trying out for a sports team or running for a class office.
Students with poor self-esteem are more likely to get bullied, bully others, underachieve, become depressed, withdraw, and act out. While growing older, these students are more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors, experiment with drugs or alcohol, or suffer from anxiety.
The Role of Teachers
Like all adults in a child’s life, teachers play a role in the development of self-esteem. When a teacher models healthy self-esteem in the classroom, children learn to mimic those behaviors, increasing their self-confidence. When a teacher is a negative role model, however, children learn that behavior as well.
To help encourage positive self-esteem, teachers can do several things. They can focus on the strengths of students, instead of their weaknesses. Teachers who encourage and support students, through both good and bad experiences, help children gain a positive self-image.
Highlighting accomplishments a student reaches will also improve self-esteem. Teachers can show students evidence of the progress they’ve made academically or display good papers and artwork.
When students feel a sense of belonging with their classmates and peers, it improves self-esteem. These children understand they have a support system and have others to rely upon.
The longer children go with low self-esteem, the deeper rooted their issues become. Therefore, the earlier things are put positioned to boost a child’s self-esteem, the better. Most young children have relatively healthy self-esteem, but for those who don’t, early intervention is key. These children may feel they need to be perfect to get attention or rely on negative coping skills, such as bullying, quitting, or avoidance as a means of dealing with self-esteem issues.
By the time students reach adolescents, there’s a shift towards lower self-esteem, especially in girls. Due to a combination of puberty, hormones, and body changes, girls feel they aren’t good enough and that nobody understands.
When children are exposed to adults with positive self-esteem, they learn to respect boundaries and meet expectations. They develop better problem-solving skills and become better friends to their peers. These children are more likely to become happy and high functioning adults and less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.
Teachers Do More than Teach
Teachers do more than just teach. They are role models for their students. They show children how to be kind and trustworthy. They develop activities to encourage self-growth and build self-esteem. Even when a child is struggling, a teacher acknowledging their effort has a huge impact on their self-image and reinforces that they are worthwhile, even when they’re not perfect.
Self-esteem is a complicated thing. While it starts at home, as children progress through school, their self-esteem continues with them. When teachers model positive self-esteem, support students, and give them a sense of belonging, it decreases the risks of low self-esteem and depression.