How To Help Students Build Self-Esteem

Helping Your Students Feel Better about Themselves and Their Learning

Every year I spent in the classroom, I was always able to instantly identify my students that had a low self-esteem. These students performed poorer. They lacked confidence and didn't actively participate in classroom discussions. They sat themselves in the back of the room and slouched low into their chairs, as I glanced around the room, looking for someone to volunteer an answer. Lowered self-esteem can, and will, impact how well a student does in your classroom. When a student feels good about himself, it reflects in his schoolwork. The following information will help you build the self-esteem of your students and help improve their overall classroom performance.

  1. Make them participate: Don't let these students be wallflowers! Call on them! But ensure their success. Call on them when you know they KNOW the answer. This gives validation to themselves and the other students in the classroom.  Or give them advance warning for when you are going to call on them. Set up a secret sign. For example, let them know that every time you walk by their desk and set your hand on it, they will be called on next. This gives them "think time," relieves anxiety, and let's them be prepared to answer.
  2. Give them a job: Every good classroom needs a few good workers! Give your students an important job. Make them in charge of something. Maybe you need somebody to keep the classroom library organized, make sure the classroom pet is fed, pass out correspondence from the office, take the classroom lunch count, and run it to the cafeteria, or volunteer in another teacher's classroom. The opportunities are endless, really. But it will help your students feel valued, needed, and worthy of getting something accomplished.
  3. Get them a mentor, and make them a mentor: It's a two-way street! Get them involved in a mentoring program. Students always look up to students who are older. But take it a step further. Let them be a mentor for a younger student! Maybe your student is a 5th grader, reading on a second grade level. Wouldn't it be a great idea for that 5th grader to model good reading to a first grader? The benefit for both students will be immeasurable.
  4. Recognize their efforts: Give them recognition for their successes. So maybe they are not your star student. But perhaps they treated somebody really kindly today, and you saw it! Make them the example for the class to follow and give them the recognition that they deserve! This helps them to feel like they are doing something right, and being recognized for it!
  5. Eliminate outside factors contributing to their lowered self-esteem: Sometimes students have low self-esteem because they wear shabby clothes, are dirty, or smell bad, and kids make fun of them. Do what you can to get better clothes donated for them. Work with the counselor and other appropriate school personnel. Help connect their family to community agencies that assist in these matters. Find out what can be done to help their family, to improve their overall living conditions. While you can't change everything for these students, it's the little things that can make a huge impact.

Students with a low-self esteem are not capable of reaching their highest potential. Raising your students' self-esteem has a positive effect on both how your students feel about themselves, and how they ultimately perform in your classroom!


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Great tips, Natalie. However, one other thing that I believe would benefit the child further is to negotiate with the parents and engage them to help build the child's self-esteem. Parents play a vital role in building a child's self-esteem; they should be advised to encourage their child, praise him, interact and communicate with the child more often and try to understand/eliminate any problems the child might have in/outside the home environment, make him feel loved and valued and that his opinion is counted and important.

By Waheedullah Aleko

Thanks. It really does work!

By Natalie Fischer

I like the 'secret sign' mentioned in Point 1.

By Kathy Steinemann