the Superintendent’s Seat
Self Esteem Is Important For All Children
Dr. Carole G. Hankin with Randi T. Sachs
age nine or 10, children begin to take more notice if a classmate
looks, acts, or dresses differently. As much as parents and teachers
would like to protect all children from being hurt, we need to
first teach them why it is wrong to view differences in others
as negative, and also to teach them how (and if) to respond, if
they are the subject of an attack, either verbal or physical.
One way to make an impression is to have the children observe
this type of behavior in a controlled setting, and then discuss
how they feel about it.
Syosset, we have a program that brings together high school students
to serve as role models for all of our districts’ third grade
students. “Peer Educators,” are high school students selected
for this program. They undergo training on interacting with the
younger students for the first half of the year, and then visit
each of the classes several times in the spring to implement their
lessons on “anti-bullying and anti-aggressiveness.” One of the
most popular methods they have used over the past several years
is to put on skits for the children to get their message across.
This year, they tried another approach to teaching the children
about respecting themselves and one another. The Peer Educators
helped the younger children to produce a musical production of
their own with a very strong message. The play gave the children
very concrete examples on why name-calling is hurtful, but even
more importantly, gave them strategies for handling these types
of situations should they arise.
The play is meant to teach children to appreciate differences
in others and to accept that different does not mean worse. When
one group of children declares another group to be “nerds” the
response they receive is quite disappointing. Instead of getting
upset, the second group of children simply responds with matter-of-fact
answers or attempts to turn the conversation away from criticizing
and steer the others toward accepting one another, even making
jokes to try to cool down hot tempers.
Not only are the children not devastated by the rejection of the
others, but they also demonstrate that they feel good about themselves
and that they have their own unique qualities. Song and dance
numbers in the production give each student the opportunity to
take center stage and to show that there are many different ways
to be “cool.”
There’s something about a production like this that transcends
even the message it so bluntly delivers. It requires cooperation,
teamwork, and a willingness to take a little risk by appearing
on stage. The students all clearly felt good about the job they
did, and they received the applause and appreciation of the second
and first graders who were the lucky audience members.
Most experts agree that one reason children will bully others
is because they lack enough self esteem to feel good about themselves
without picking on someone who is smaller or has less defenses.
Through these kinds of programs we can reach out to young children
and show them that each and every one of them has tremendous self
worth for who they are. Teachers report that it works. They have
found that there is better harmony in their classes after meeting
with the high school students.#
Hankin is the Superintendent of the Syosset School District in
Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001.
Tel: (212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919.Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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