What is success? How do we measure it, outside of the host of data and targets and tracking records that schools have to complete? What does success look like in the classroom, on the playground, at home?
I suspect many children and teenagers with special educational needs shy away from the language of success, dwelling far more on those aspects of themselves that seem to be in deficit, found wanting, inadequate.
In my one-to-one discussions and subsequent assessment of children in schools, I ask the question – What are you good at? What are your strengths? To which, the inevitable reply is ‘I don’t know what I’m good at but I can tell you what I’m not good at…’
When we reach a point whereby a child’s definition of themselves is marked by failure, by difficulties, then we have let down that child badly. All children should have a strong sense of their successes, of what makes them happy, inspires them or gives them confidence, for all of those factors are the ingrediants of success – happiness, confidence, optimism, inspiration.
Looking back through old school files this morning I am struck by the wealth of advice and resources given out to many schools over so many years – advice and support that I hope has made some difference. Much though, as many school practitioners and independent consultants will know, will never make it to a publishing house or enjoy the longevity of being part of a book in print. Nevertheless, it is these little contributions that make our world and the educational landscape a better place for the children in our care.
So, here is an example of a Positive Word Wall that can be added to with illustrations and used for display within the classroom or as a personal resource for young people who struggle to see anything good about themselves. Once we focus on a language that is positive, it is amazing hos our thoughts subtly shift to match the words spoken.
For some young people, whose internal language is by default, unfailingly harsh and critical, their external environment has taught them that their inner critic, that subconscious voice, may be correct. There is much work to do to turn around a poor self-opinion and low self-esteem, but a starting point is to think – what is the language of success? What words foster positivity and how often, in the classroom, do we hear them heard out loud?
Some ideas to develop your own Positive Word Wall in the classroom –
- Draw up a table as above and head it as a Positive Word Wall
- Make your chart at least A4 or preferably A3 and decorate with an attractive border design
- Use the vocabulary from above, or complete adding also your own choice of Positive words
- Leave some blank spaces on the chart for words that are used within the classroom or school – add them as they are attributed to members of the class
- Be mindful that the focus is on raising the esteem and self-image of children with SEND, so ensure that new additions to the chart are not just from the same small cluster of high achievers
- Be mindful also not to make a public show of trying to bolster the confidence of one or two individuals – there is a fne line between encouragement and false praise
- Have a mantra at the start of the day that focuses on one or two words from the chart
- Bring this into a period of Mindfulness, by repeating a set phrase or expression incorporating two or three positive words
- Focus your attention as class/form/subject teacher on the qualities children display that reflect a positive language
- Use it as a motivation booster after difficult times or periods of disharmony
- Have a word a day to focus on and incorporate into everyday actions, words and thoughts. A chart with 30 words on will cover a typical half term worth of daily motivational thoughts
- Create a personal copy of the positive word wall for one or two children who suffer with low self-esteem as reminders of their capabilities, their potential and their qualities
For those professionals working hard to ensure a high quality of educational experience for the children in your care, mindful of every slight against their character, every challenge they must overcome, do remember also to focus on the language of success. Never forget the contribution you are making daily as you turn around lives of difficulty and despair, and create in its place, opportunities for hope, happiness and success.