Saturday, 27 February 2010

Thought prompted by my Self Esteem dossier!

Last weekend, I was having a bit of a muck out. This is prompted when I either cannot a) find something or b) move. It's quite ugly to watch. The equation is: slight irritation about lost thing + bullish person + extreme chaos in physical surroundings = irritation, even more bullish person, unsettled dust and nothing achieved. (I appreciate this isn't mathematically sound but I wouldn't risk pointing it out if I were you; I'm still in chaos). I was trying to find the visitors' book that we had in our toilet for many years to share some of the wonderful comments people had written, but failed. Instead I found what I used to call, 'my self esteem dossier'. It is full of newspaper clippings of stuff I have done, special cards people have made for me and various other 'feel good' bits and pieces from a variety of places. A look through is guaranteed to make me glow from deep inside.

As a teacher, I used to invest a lot in developing and preserving pupils' self esteem. I always worked with kids that were mostly from very testing backgrounds (things on their files like 'saw father hang himself when he was 7' or 'had to nurse dying step-dad aged 9 -including nappy changing - while mum went to pub') and felt that this work was really important if we were to ever get to a place where some learning would happen (as opposed to a lot of resistant and/or destructive behaviour). I used lots of 'gimmicks' to try and help kids feel better about themselves (e.g. special days, achievement celebrations, compliment sheets, acts of kindness, touch tunnels..etc) and they grew to love coming in daily to the safe haven we had created together as a class. In the first school I worked in, therefore, I gained a reputation for self esteem (and 'safe haven') work and was asked to lead a training session for the rest of the teachers. I decided to talk about self esteem generally (and showed how self esteem spirals up and poor self esteem spirals down etc) and share some of the gimmicks I used with the children.

One such gimmick that the kids used to love is quite commonly used now. It's effects are not long-lasting or overly effective but it does help children to feel less paranoid about what their peers think about them.

Here it is.......

You start by brain-storming compliments - this is to develop compliments beyond 'YOUR NICE'(you never got an apostrophe - despite extensive work on it!). Next, you give each child a sheet of paper and ask them to write and decorate their name in the centre - leaving space around the edge. You then ask the children to leave their sheet on the desk where they sit and you give them the following instructions:
1) Do not return to your own name sheet (as tempting as it is) until I indicate the activity is finished.
2) Wander around the room and try and write something nice about everyone in the class on their sheet.
3) Imagine how you would feel if you returned to your sheet and found something insulting. Please do not write anything nasty. Even if you do not get on with someone, you should be able to find something nice to say about them, even if it is something like, 'you have nice hair.'

An aside: I used to love watching their little faces light up when they returned to their sheets. I used to go and write something on everybody's sheet too, of course. One time, the class secretly put my name on a sheet and got everyone to write on it without me knowing and were pleased to present it to me at the end of the session.

Now as I might have said one or two times before; I know I am not everyone's cup of tea. In my youth, I am preety sure I was even more direct and outspoken than I am now. Those that struggled with me tended to be extreme conformers. I think I rattled conforming cages too much for some to cope with. (Perhaps I am the devilish conscious most have suppressed into their subconscious!!!) Anyway, I did this activity with the teachers (and have since done it with many teams that I have worked in - see picture). I gave exactly the same instruction to the teachers as I have listed above. So when I returned to my piece of paper I was a little surprised to find, 'You have nice blond hair' (written in the handwriting of the teacher of hockey sticks fame:
( ). Clever woman had managed to craftily tell me she didn't like me, in the middle of an exercise about helping people to feel better about themselves. And do you know what? I admired her honesty and cheekiness!!!!


  1. She was/is a smart lady :)

    Even more direct and outspoken?? Is that possible? :)

    Neat idea on the self-esteem thing, not come across that before.

  2. ooh I hope you smiled graciously whilst accepting this 'compliment' from the "stupid old bag"
    you didn't write that down for her now did you?

  3. We did this on my PGCE course with each other. Sadly the only comment I remember was from one of the guys. It said "I like your bum and your hair."

  4. Codgi - yep, clever woman...I wondered if she had waited a long time for such an opportunity.

    I am tame now - by comparison. Honestly.

    Clipster - I tried to remember what I wrote on her sheet...probably thought some very positive PR was probably gushed compliments at her! I led by example to show that I had learnt the error of my ways and that calling someone a 'stupid old bag' via a kid wasn't overly self-esteem enhancing!!!!! Live and learn!

    'I like your bum and your hair???' Funny what we receive!

  5. I was actually pretty miffed at that comment at the time! You know, I'm-more-than-just-a-pretty-face-feminist stuff which is probably why that one sticks in my mind. However, I did shag the guy who wrote it a week later!! Talk about mixed messages and fucked up psychology.


I LOVE comments......