Three Ways Teachers Positively Impact Students
“I have come to a frightening conclusion. I am the decisive element in the classroom. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or de-humanized.” –Haim G. Ginnot
In his classic book, “Between Parent and Child,” teacher and child psychologist Haim Ginnot wrote these famous and meaningful words that are as relevant now as they were over three decades ago when he first penned them. What are some of the most important ways that today’s teachers can have a positive influence on children? Solid curriculum instruction is certainly tops on the list, but experts in Positive Youth Development also cite these three areas in which teachers can make a major impact on their students:
Teachers give students skills and tools for solving problems. Addition and subtraction rules are methods of figuring out correct answers to math problems and instruction in the scientific method aides young minds in formulating theories and testing hypotheses. More important than the obvious academic lessons, however, is the confidence kids gain that they can figure out an answer, resolve a dilemma, and overcome difficulty. By teaching problem-solving skills, teachers inspire kids with the knowledge that they can master their own worlds.
Kids benefit from acknowledgement of a job well done. When teachers offer praise for good work, positive efforts, and genuine achievement, children internalize these messages. Self-affirming internal beliefs (e.g.”I am good at math,” or “I am a kind person.”) guide children in how they approach new challenges and take-on novel responsibilities. Positive self-esteem development is the gift that lasts for a lifetime.
Distinct from self-esteem, self-efficacy has to do with a child’s beliefs about his abilities and capacity to accomplish a task. When teachers allow children to master classroom challenges and handle tough academic assignments, they provide their students with valuable real-world experience in dealing with life’s challenges and attaining goals. Self-efficacy is fostered when teachers present challenges and express confidence in their students’ abilities to master them.
Signe Whitson is a licensed social worker and co-author of The Angry Smile: The Psychology of Passive Aggressive Behavior in Families, Schools, and Workplaces, 2nd ed.. In addition to blogging for Psychology Today, she is the creator of Passive Aggressive Diaries, a blog designed to take a light-hearted look at the hilariously conniving ways in which people encounter and exude passive aggressive behavior in their everyday lives. She has developed and delivered numerous training curricula around the country in areas related to child and adolescent mental health. Her advice is spread throughout the parenting community by My Baby Clothes Boutique in an effort to give back to their customers. Check them out next time you are looking for that perfect baby headband or special newborn hat for the little one’s in your life.