Saturday, June 2, 2018

Self-Esteem, not Other-Esteem, is Vital to Teaching

A short letter appeared in the New Jersey Star-Ledger on May 7, 2018 that included this excerpt:

Tuesday [5/8/18] is National Teachers Day. As a retired teacher, I remember teachers feeling great joy in getting recognition from parents, administrators and students. In fact, a study indicates that recognition is the most important of all human needs.

The letter was written by a teacher named Joseph. I emphasized that sentence because a person whose most important need is to seek the approval of others is not equipped to teach children.

Gaining recognition and esteem from others is of course great to have. It can be pretty lonely without it. But that’s when you need self-esteem--the self-recognition of one’s own worth--the most. If one’s sense of self-worth is primarily tied up in others’ judgement, that is not a psychologically healthy state. And that is not a good place for a teacher to be.

The most fundamental purpose of education is to teach a child to think independently, which requires the self-confidence to rely on his own judgement regardless of what others think or recognize. Another primary purpose is to instill in the child a love of learning, so she can become a self-learner. This is important because most of what a person learns occurs outside of any classroom, and self-learning also requires independence and the self-confidence to go it alone: Thinking, after all, is the most selfish of human attributes because it’s the one thing that no one can do for you.

It’s not that recognition is not important. It is, in that it provides added fuel for the soul. It’s that a person’s self-confidence should be strong without the external recognition, not dependent on it; indeed, dependence is lack of self-esteem.

A teacher for whom recognition and praise from others is his most important need is not equipped to properly educate a child, for whom fostering an independent self-confident adulthood should be the primary goal. Self-esteem, not other-esteem, is vital to proper teaching, because self-esteem is the most vital of all human psychological needs.

Related Reading:

Pseudo Self-Esteem vs. the Real Thing

Tenure and Self-Esteem--Part 1

Tenure and Self-Esteem--Part 2

Related Listening:

Yaron Brook on Self-Esteem

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