I’ve explained before that the students I work with are quite low academically. They are also sheltered in their community which is threaded with negativity and lives that are ‘good enough.’ It’s not very often I hear an adult motivating a child to be whatever they want, or to travel anywhere outside of the province, or to truly succeed. There are extremely few positive role models in this community. And I see the effects of this deficit every day in my class room.
I have one student who tells me, without fail, every time a task is put to her, “Miss! I can’t do this! I’m dumb!”….”I’m too stupid to figure this out!” So I am honest with her, “No, you’re not dumb, you’re not stupid, what you are being right now, though, is lazy.” She will laugh and admit to me that she was listening to my instructions, or to me at all, or that she hadn’t read the question yet, etc… And I’m not lying to her, she is NOT dumb, she is NOT stupid….But somewhere along the line, some one, or some people, told her or made her feel that she was.
How do I change that? We’ve now been in the same class together for 7 months, and this continues to be a daily occurrence. We all hope to affect the lives of our students in a positive way, and sometimes I don’t feel like I’m making that difference.
In February, we had a leadership week at school. People came from within the community, within the school, and some even traveled the provinces, to come and talk with the students about how to be successful. How to move up. How to do well in school. And my kids goofed off almost the whole time.
One of the speakers was a friend of a friend of mine, who I had never met in person, but watched her compete on a national TV show a few years ago, and I was star struck. She was in my classroom, took complete ownership of her activities and the conversations. One of the activities was to get the students to stand up in front of their peers (just Jr. High, maybe 30 students total) say their name, their birthday, and one thing they like.
What was the point of that? You may ask. The point was simple. Speak in front of your peers. That’s it, that’s all. It might seem simple to the rest of us; stand up, project your voice, speak clearly, speak slower than normal, look at your audience.
It was a struggle. 3 students refused to even stand up, even when friends, teachers, and the activity leaders encouraged them and offered to stand with them and support them. This concerned me. It wasn’t as though we were trying to have them present an elaborate speech about the vast research topic.
As a person who has never had an issue with public speaking, even as a child, I didn’t know how to make these kids feel comfortable, safe, confident.
After the students left for break, Linsay stayed behind and I asked her about this. She suggested something that seemed so simple! I was boggled that I hadn’t thought of it already.
“Affirmations,” she stated, “Read positive affirmations every day with them. Let me know in June if you notice a difference.”
You guys, I’ve been super stoked about this! I immediately whipped out my phone and clicked on my cyber-best-friend…Pinterest. Hooolllehhhh! There are SO many resources out there about affirmations for different ages, life situations, feelings, etc. I saved them all to my phone.
Initially, I read them to my students. I would pick three, say them three times each, and each time, the students would repeat after me. Every morning we were doing this. They seemed uninterested, staring at the ceiling, poking their friend, folding paper, doodling, looking at their book….But they did say them.
Then I wondered, hold on, how is this helping them become comfortable in front of everyone? Away went a few hours of my weekend as I wrote out each of these affirmations (there were 150 on this specific list!) on index cards and put them neatly in a box you’d find on the desk of a secretary/receptionist.
My students have figured out that I’m a bit of a neat freak with a few OCD tendencies, so upon noticing this new box on my desk at the front of the room, the curiosity rose among them. They came to the correct conclusion, they’d be reading the affirmations themselves from now on!
Starting this week, I choose 3 students randomly, the get up in front of the class, they flick through the box and find an affirmation they like, and they take turns reading, while the rest of the class (including myself) repeats after them. There have been a few hesitations, to be expected, but overall, the audience seems to be responding slightly more enthusiastically.
I am excited to watch them in June, remembering where they started, and do a mental, just-for-me ‘assessment’ of how far they have come. I am eager to contact Linsay and share with her how her small tidbit of advice sparked these students to inadvertently become more confident.
I encourage you, whether or not you’re an educator, to try this with children, and see for yourself any changes in them.
I am loved.
I am helpful.
I am kind.
I can do it.
I learn from my mistakes.
I act responsibly.
I love myself even though I sometimes fail.
I accept and love myself.
I am kind to all.
I solve problems.
I have a beautiful imagination.
I embrace change.
I am confident.
I am brave.
I forgive others for their mistakes.
I get better and better every day.
I am in charge of my life.
I am persistent.
I am honest.
I am patient.
I am perfect just the way I am.
I work hard.
I see the good in myself.
I like being challenged.
These are just SOME of my favourites.
Even as adults, it can be hard to feel confident, be happy, keep trying, etc…
It doesn’t hurt to talk to ourselves in the mirror sometimes.