Supporting Children’s Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem at School 21 Feb 2020

At Thank A Teacher we have been receiving thousands of thank you messages from pupils whose teachers have helped boost their confidence. Joseph Grimes from Cardinal Langley Roman Catholic High School talks about how Mrs Carroll supported and inspired him: thank you for all your hard work helping me to grow and learn, giving me the courage to be who I want to be. Inspiring me to do my best at school.

Self-confidence is the foundation for a child’s personal growth and development. Without the secure base provided by sound self-esteem, children can lack the courage to take healthy risks and venture out of their comfort zone to try new things.  In recent years, the Key State of Education survey has indicated a significant increase in anxiety and depression in children as young as primary school age, with feelings of social isolation, fear of academic failure and poor self-image being highlighted as root causes.

Different schools have different approaches and schemes to promote self-confidence in students, with many taking a ‘strengths based’ approach, encouraging the children to pinpoint and embrace something positive about themselves.  “Thank you Sir for always making my problems in class simple and for keeping me focused throughout the lessons. I’ve really enjoyed maths this year”. (Jack Irish, about his teacher Liam Keane at the Free Reach School).

The British educational system is still fairly results-oriented and impressionable children can come to equate academic failure with low self-worth. A teacher’s praise for each child’s specific gifts and recognition of their personal attributes can help build self-esteem and encourage a child to see themselves as a unique individual rather than just a grade on a school report. A positive teaching attitude can go a long way towards nurturing a pupils’ love for a subject, as Anisha from St Albans Girls’ School tells her Spanish teacher, Miss Gill, “You’re very understanding, kind and you want everyone to do their best. This year, thanks to you, I feel more confident”.

The non-profit organisation Great Schools talks of the importance of “nurturing resilience” in children and recognising their personal and academic strengths, which they refer to as “Islands of competence”. A teacher’s insight and ability to detect low self-esteem in a pupil and to accompany them with a positive attitude and provide praise where possible can have a huge impact on an individual’s sense of dignity. Ideally, any work done at school to boost self-esteem will be complemented at home by parents. Parent-teacher communication is, therefore, primordial for success, and the efforts and dedication of teachers does not go unnoticed by parents. Emma Hotchkiss expressed how much she valued the work done by Mrs Ferrie of Tannochside Primary School by saying I appreciate your dedication to the school, to our children(…) Oliver (…) responds so well to your perfectly balanced, personable and encouraging approach”.

By being attentive to pupil’s emotional needs and establishing a positive and supportive environment in the classroom, teachers can greatly boost children’s self-confidence, enabling them to grow up to be resilient adults that are well equipped to deal with all the setbacks that life presents. “Thank you Miss Collier and Mrs Skilbeck for being by my side. Thank you for holding my hand. Thank you for appreciating that things are a little more overwhelming and unsettling for me and for accepting me and my individual needs.” (Quillon Phillips at St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School).