Our children face many hurdles during their educational journey: the ever-demanding curriculum, tests, peer pressure and more. There are many opportunities for children to lose self-esteem and doubt their own ability. With a focus on levels and test scores, children are all too aware of their position in relation to their peers and rather than creating positive competition, it can spiral into self doubt and lack of self worth.
From my own experience, a child’s feeling that they can’t do something (or finding a certain task difficult) is a greater hurdle than academic ability or a lack of understanding. The negative outlook that a task is going to be hard, or ‘I hate these types of question’ can be a difficult barrier to overcome.
Boosting self esteem and giving children opportunities to see how good they are, is far more valuable than focussing on what they can’t do. As educators, we a trained to look for gaps in children’s understanding. Yes, these need addressing and it is key that children receive the support and intervention that they need. But perhaps, before any intervention, there needs to be an investment in ensuring that a child is ready to learn and feels confident that they have the ability to succeed.
Imagine learning to drive. You can manage roundabouts, three point turns and emergency stops but that reverse parking is causing you problems. If the instructor spends most time talking about reverse parking, it makes you feel frustrated and focuses your own mind on what you can’t do, rather than what you can. If each week you return to reverse parking and you start to have self doubt, lack of confidence and feel you can’t do it, you begin to feel like giving up. You need to be reassured that you have the ability and are a good driver, so that you have the resilience to master the areas you find most difficult. (In case you’re wondering, reverse parking was my Achilles heel when I was learning to drive, but I did get there in the end!)
Education should be as much about celebrating what each child can do, and is successful at, as well as finding the gaps. We can never underestimate the value of boosting children’s self esteem; confidence is key!