One of the things that fascinates me the most about teaching is the extent to which self-esteem and self-efficacy influence a child’s ability to learn. I have students that do remarkable things but are self-effacing to the point of negativity. I also come across kids with an hyperbolic sense of self even though, well, they’re just everyday people. And then we have all combinations and everything in between.

I consider an advanced student in my class to be someone who doesn’t easily get thrown off track by relatively minor failures, yet is able to recognize them and not make excuses for why they have occurred. If failure is not an issue, it’s like exponential learning.

It’s not surprising that self-confidence seems to equal more positive risk taking. That’s why, when I give feedback to students, I try my best to stress the positive in their work or behaviour. It’s an essential ingredient if you want to become someone that adapts to change quickly; optimism. When describing next steps, I try hard to be as practical as possible as well. To be honest, that’s one of the hardest parts of the job. It takes a lot of energy to be doing assessment like that every day. I often question whether I’m doing it well.

What do you do to foster a positive outlook in the people you work with or teach?



  1. Royan,
    I sometimes have trouble believing in myself, I doubt the things I do make a difference. Most times I don’t know because I haven’t stayed in the same job for more than a year for the last 7 years.
    The crux of the situation is: if I don’t believe in myself who will? It’s definitely made life interesting, and I think it has made me a better teacher. As to you question: how do you create better self-efficacy in the people around you?
    Model, talk, be open, and if that fails, make full size motivational posters and make them mandatory for everyone.

  2. It’s especially hard to counter the usually unspoken assumption of the education system that it is a succeed/fail endeavour.

    I use improvisational theatre games to encourage people of all ages to fail spectacularly at every opportunity. They experience for themselves that failure is an entirely subjective assessment, among many other hard-to-teach concepts. And they have enormous fun!

  3. I think self-esteem, self-concept and self-efficacy are all tied to the notion of agency. For too long, schools have taught those concepts by saying cute things to kids like, “you can be anything you want to be” and in the process missing what causes kids to feel valued.

  4. I often try to find something positive in people, regardless of their physical or mental state of being. I believe anyone can make the best of a situation. However, being honest is a very important factor when dealing with the lives of other individuals. All we as people can do is to give it our best.

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