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  • Writer's pictureTara O'Brien

Self Perception Matters

...I think I can...

...I think I can...

...I think I can...

You may remember the story of The Little Engine That Could. It tells the story of a small steam engine full of heavy toys struggling to climb a giant hill. While climbing the hill the engine chanted, "...I think I can, I think I can..." gradually believing that it could achieve success and eventually saying, "...I know I can...I know I can..." This heartwarming story is meant to illustrate a lesson. What we believe about ourselves matters and creates real and tangible change.

Teachers are Powerful

As teachers we play an important role in how students see themselves. How we talk to and treat students has a real impact in their beliefs about themselves and the capabilities they develop. Self perception matters and students who believe that their efforts will eventually succeed work harder in school, care more about school, and take more academic risks.

What Can I Do?

Firstly, change the way that you see your students. Don't just focus on the weaknesses of students but focus on strengths and build on them. Children need to know their strengths and feel capable and successful. Believe that every child can succeed!

What you think about your students matters.

Secondly, reinforce and encourage student effort. "Catch" students persevering through a challenge and encourage that effort. Focus more on the process of learning and growth achieved and less on product or outcome.

Thirdly, model positive self-perception aloud. It may sound, and even look, a bit silly...but, model positive self perception when interacting with students. One effective strategy is using a "feeling statement." For example, when working with a student on a math problem I could say aloud, "I feel proud when I preserver" or "I feel happy about learning this new math skill." Positive self-perception can be taught and learned through explicit and implicit instruction, consistent routines and support, and practice.

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