Updated: Jul 15, 2021
Self talk matters; especially when it comes to our students. As adults, we can make the connection between how we talk to ourselves, and the reality we experience. Negative self-talk impedes the super power of positive thinking for our kids. Let’s face it, they are exposed to many negative thoughts from the media. They have experiences listening to music, going to school, engaging in sports, and other social situations in which negative thoughts can take over and sabotage their performance. Before they know it, their thoughts have gone down the rabbit hole, of comparison. This is unproductive! Our students have different timelines and they accomplish things in their own time. The truth is, negative self talk and comparison lower their feelings of self worth, interfere with their friendships, and create stress and anxiety. So what do we do to help? You might be expecting 20 one liners and sentence frames to use with kids to encourage them to talk and think positively about themselves. Nope. Actually positive self talk is not just a strategy or a prompt you give your students. It is a skill that starts first within you, and needs to be modeled. This happens primarily through our think-alouds. As an adult, how do you talk to yourself? What do you think about yourself? Do you think aloud or quietly in your head? What does your body language look like when you are having negative thoughts vs positive thoughts? It is important to listen to your thoughts because we are listening to ourselves. And, those around us are listening and watching too. Have you ever said, “You know, I’m just not that great at math. This new strategy is super hard for me too.” It's great to acknowledge the struggle; it’s not okay to downplay your skills or potential. As teachers, we don’t have to be perfect. There will be students who know more about a subject than you. Don’t let this intimidate you. We are here to lead our students in the art of learning. We don’t have to know everything, we just need to model wanting to learn, and believing we actually can. That’s what teaching is all about. Our students won’t push themselves to be learners, if we don’t do it first. This is the real definition of being a lifelong learner. Also, in addition to modeling positive self talk, pay attention to what is happening in your classroom. What are you doing to combat comparison and make all kids feel worthy? If you are constantly calling on the same student, in their peer’s eyes, that’s the smart kid they are now comparing themselves to. Are you constantly coaching or critiquing a certain student? If we are not careful, we can be responsible for feeding into the comparison trap our students fall into. Let’s sincerely own our mistakes, think through our thoughts aloud, and be willing to take risks powered by our positive self talk. Eventually, you will believe your thoughts and your students will believe theirs. The influence we have on our students is strong, so let’s give them the gift of positive self talk.