It's said that it only takes one negative comment to last a lifetime and between ten to twenty positive comments for someones conscious to accept it as the truth. I can remember participating in a youth group activity during high school, where I had to sit in front an entire group of my peers and listen as everyone took turns saying something positive about me. It was so uncomfortable! By the end, I was sweating with embarrassment. Why is it easier to hear and believe the negative stuff? Is it because all of us have the profound belief that we aren't "good enough" as we are?
I believe that self worth and self confidence greatly stem from our formative years of childhood and those experiences can vary from person to person. Experiences that can dictate a lifetime of core beliefs, values, and life outlook. Experiences that may have been founded in lies and uncertainty. Experiences founded in loving nurture and comfort. Heart wrenching experiences, which forced the "fight or flight" instinct much, much to early. My formative years were impacted by divorce, like so many of the children we serve today in education.
One of my closest friends has always been self confident and very independent, since we were both kids. I've learned a great deal from him over the years when it comes to stepping out of my comfort zone and trying new things, without knowing or controlling their outcomes. He's had more of a picturesque american family upbringing as compared to me. You know how it looks... both parents who are highly educated with good jobs, a nice home with plenty of room for frequent social gatherings, and family vacations to Hawaii. I don't say this to be negative, but to give perspective on how each child we work with has different experiences during those important years. He's had his own challenges as we all do... just different ones than me. However, I would argue that his resiliency, confidence, and optimism have something to do with the stable and loving family unit he endured as a child...
During my first year of teaching, I attended a professional development workshop about motivating students. One thing the keynote speaker said, in which I've always remembered, was an analogy that he used. He paralleled going to the casino with a certain amount of poker chips to play with and in the same light, students coming to school with a certain amount of chips. Some students come to us with just a few chips in their hand and by recess, they're gone. The teacher that was tough on them and the sarcastic joke by a student left them chipless for the rest of the day. Others come to school like high rollers, with an abundance of chips. Their chips allow them to endure hardships, grow and learn, and even leave school with more chips than they came with on some days.
Think about your students as this year comes to an end. Who still needs poker chips to finish the year out well? Who may need hundreds if not thousands of dollars in chips? Give it to them, roll the dice, and see what happens...