Charity Hope Valentine had it right–self-confidence is key. For my students and myself, this can be a very real challenge. It’s a season of change–seasons, clocks, wardrobes, and mindsets. My students are starting to think of what next year will be like, their teachers, friends, and responsibilities. And so it comes up: how do you bolster a student’s self-esteem?
I’ve recently heard Scott Fried speak on a subject related to this. I have to start by saying, Scott taught me things I didn’t realize I needed to know, things I needed to hear, and how to better connect with my students. If you don’t know who Scott is, he teaches kindness. Learn more about him at www.scottfried.com.
The biggest thing you can do is validate your student. Listen. Hear them. This is his or her feeling and it is very real. Acknowledge this. Acknowledge them. Through this, you show them that they are being heard, and not just listened to. After all, this is what you’d want, right?
A reminder to the conversational partner hearing the student: as much as you want to, don’t fix the situation. Allow your student to get out whatever emotions need to be expressed. Do not give unsolicited advice. This goes for sayings like, “it gets better,” or “just give it time.” How does it feel when you hear those things? I can only speak from experience, but those statements and the like make me feel dismissed and unimportant. Wait for them to ask for your help.
If they do ask for your help, go ahead. Offer your suggestions. Ask them about what they’re thinking. Let them try and problem solve. Wait for them to ask for guidance if you can. Let them know that you are here for them. The most important thing a student will ever hear from me is, “I believe in you.” Find your message and share it with your students. Through this, they exercise their executive functioning skills in a safe space before acting upon them. This helps them build their own self-esteem without them being 100% dependent on your thought process. This allows them to feel brave, smart, and in control. Even more, you’ve acknowledged the strength of their vulnerability, and how to manipulate their world from such a raw place. Let them be brave.
My challenge to you this week is to find a way to express that you are enough just as you are in the most creative way that you can. This can be through writing, through art, through words, or deeds. Please share your experiences below of how you acknowledge that you’re the bravest individual you have ever met.
Keep playing with words and see what your message creates!
–Stef the StageSLP