Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Raising a student’s self-confidence

by Dani Further (writer), Chicago, June 11, 2007

It is a commonly accepted belief that children with higher self-esteems earn higher grades and achieve more in school than children with lower self-esteems. Consequently, many schools around the nation have implemented programs aimed at raising a child’s self-esteem and teaching methods that avoid damaging a student’s ego. However, when building a student’s self-confidence is placed before building a student’s education, generally the result is students that can’t accept constructive criticism and teachers who become overly lenient in grading and correcting mistakes.

According to Jean M. Twenge, Ph.D. in her new book, Generation Me, 60% of teachers and 69% of school counselors agree that self-esteem should be raised by “providing more unconditional validation of students based on who they are rather than how they perform or behave”.

Today, school administrators believe that a child’s self-esteem must be actively taught and cultivated by teachers and staff in the classroom. Gone are they days of the 1950’s and 1960’s when children gained self-esteem by living in more stable families and a child friendly society. In today’s world, adults believe children must be taught self-esteem, and must exhibit characteristics of it as well.

Putting the additional burden of raising a child’s self-confidence on teachers has resulted in some pretty foolish methods of grading and students with higher scores on tests in narcissism rather than higher scores in math or science. Some teachers have exchanged their red pens for purple pens, insisting that the red ink comes off as too threatening and scary to students. Other teachers have stopped correcting spelling errors, saying that this teaches their students independence and how to be “independent spellers”.

SAT scores have declined since 1987, but college freshman claiming to have ‘A’ averages in high school has risen from 18% in 1987 to 48% in 2005. Grade inflation is another way America’s education programs have attempted to raise self-esteem, and American students still have significantly lower test scores and grades than their European and Asian counterparts.

Raising a student’s self-confidence by avoiding correcting mistakes and handing out ‘A’ grades when the student really deserved a ‘C’ is actually deferring students from success. It’s giving more credit than the amount of effort and work warranted. Working hard to earn good grades, or working hard in unrelated school activities, raises a person’s self-esteem, not rewarding students for average work to make them feel better.

When teachers are instructed to teach by avoiding hurting a child’s feelings by giving them the grade they deserved, and parents of students are confronting teachers about their child’s low grades and putting the blame solely on the teachers, kids are learning that feeling good about themselves is more important than performing and behaving well. It deprives a student of initiative and motivation.

It’s not good to feel bad about yourself all the time, but when we are taught that feeling good about ourselves is more important than working hard, than why try? When self-confidence building precedes education cultivation, we learn how to feel fantastic about ourselves whether we get straight ‘A’s or straight ‘F’s.

It is certainly important to maintain a healthy sense of self-esteem, but teachers are not responsible for building a student’s self-esteem, the student is. School should be used for character building before self-confidence raising. Building a strong character means taking responsibility for your behavior and work, and accepting failure without being depressed for a week about it, or having your parent go to the school and scream at your teacher.

A school that helps cultivate strong characters in their students produces students that work hard to overcome challenges, and don’t expect high grades by taking the easy way out. Also, a person who has a strong character has a good self-esteem that does not bleed over into self-importance and narcissism.

About the Writer

Dani Further is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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4 comments on Raising a student’s self-confidence

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By shellbelle on June 11, 2007 at 12:44 pm
This topic come up regularly in my life, and I discuss it with much passion. The headline grabbed me, and I was looking forward to sending a link to a few friends. After reading it, I realized, I'd feel compelled to fix the article before sending it to anyone. Please, especially when writing a piece about the quality of education, please check grammer, punctuation, and spelling carefully. In my opinion, errors change the impact. At least in this case there was some comedy as a result -- It made me laugh out loud that a typo slipped through in this sentence: "Other teachers have stopped correcting spelling errors, saying that this teachers their students independence and how to be 'independent spellers'. " --- (Are you familiar with Melanie Phillip's writing on praise? and her book "All must Have Prizes")
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By shellbelle on June 11, 2007 at 12:46 pm
Ah, fer cryin' out loud... here I go criticizing you for spelling errors, and after posting my comment, I catch errors in my comment. That figures. : P
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By Jen on June 11, 2007 at 04:23 pm
Grammar and spelling considerations aside...Excellent article! It really is too bad that we seem to have forgotten the inherrent value in "learning how to fail". Thanks for the reminder.
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By Ariel on June 11, 2007 at 07:37 pm
I've had the chance to study in both the European (France) and American system (Georgia Tech). I indeed noticed that getting good grades was MUCH easier in the U.S than in France, even at a Masters level. The difference is particularly striking in certain fields, namely Mathematics and Physics. On the other hands, American students are MUCH more active and tend to take more risks in school than in Europe. They have a lot of ideas and are not afraid to share them in front of everyone in class. European students tend to be much more quiet, rarely answer when the professor ask a question (they only do when they are 100% sure of their answers).
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