Self Esteem…gosh am I tired!

Written during Silent Reading time today...

Barbara said in class: "The way to improve students' self esteem is to be really specific about their strengths; avoid language like "good" and "smart"

Why is it that come kids don't listen or know what is going on in class? What are they thinking about? I would feel better if they were day-dreaming about fun and exploratory things, but it is more likely they are thinking about home life, social life, or cruel sick jokes.

On another topic:
It is fine for students to be different (in dress or likes/dislikes), I even encourage it, but they need to know they are doing that and own their identity as such. Problems occur when students don't realize that they wear clothes or do things that others think are silly and they fine out in a harsh manner with much embarrassment. This is where feeling unaccepted often leads to conformity (out of survival, really). But if a student knows they are different and owns that characteristic they can stay strong. Unfortunately I feel like everyone wants to be accepted and so I'm not sure if it is possible to go through secondary education unscathed. I'm sure everyone can remember the terrible feeling when you realize that you are the only one wearing sneakers when everyone else is in sandals or you are the only one in a t-shirt and jeans when everyone else is in shorts. I can certainly remember almost feeling sick and wanting to run back into my closet to find anything better.

But then again, how can people help young people make the decision not to conform and hold to their identity of dress, etc?? If you just ask them if they understand that they look strange to others and want to stay strong, it is still embarrassing because you are still someone giving them the raw truth that they won't fit in. It almost has nothing to do with knowing about how your actual characteristics are viewed and more to do with general self esteem. But not entirely.

There is still that time of coming into self awareness and the awareness of our surroundings. There still is that point of going from just hearing "some people treat others unfairly because of how they look or what they do" to seeing and feeling the sharp painful reality of injustice, bullying, social status, and our "place" in the world. Everyone has to go through that process and decide what to do about our characteristics that we can change and how to live with the ones we can't change.

But how can we help teenagers understand how they appear to others and the choices they have to make about their identity before the wind gets knocked out of them by their peers? Is it possible to save them or help them? Would any teen want to dress as they always have if they were told by a trusted adult "people are going to laugh at you and you need to decide what you are going to do about that and if you want to change?" I have no answers...I need feedback.

I am soooooo tired.