self esteem

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two kids walking their dog

~

Got together with Kika and Rivka this week, and it was an opportunity to discuss an issue that I’ve only recently discovered, as a result of my post, a couple of weeks ago on education.

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Kika and Rivka visiting me

I’ve heard people describe happiness received from their offspring, when they see their children or grandchildren following in their footsteps. In my case, I can say that my children bring me great happiness, not because they followed in my footsteps, but because they continued from where I’ve gotten, and continue quite a bit further. Rivka is a good example. I had a lot of criticism about the way I was raised, and studied a bit about education when I grew up, so as not to make the same mistakes that my parents had made with me. This was not for the purpose of entering into the profession of education. I just wanted to understand this area of activity. As I learned, I developed certain attitudes and principles which helped guide me in the raising of my own children… and discovered along the way, that even with the best intentions, we all make mistakes.

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shadow of a tree

My daughter Rivka, having gained success in another profession, returned to this subject herself, after having children, and observing the methods of different schools. She realized that she wasn’t really satisfied with the standard schooling, and began studying the Montessori method of education. After finishing her studies, she opened a Montessori kindergarten, and went on to study numerous methods of communication, which she now teaches to different age groups. She has continued to study, and to teach in a number of different frameworks. Her best friend, Kika, also a married woman with children, has joined her in the quest for better education and communication. They are partners in the management of the kindergarten, and encourage study seminars with employees, and the parents of those children who attend their kindergarten.

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we all have to stop and think sometimes

When I first heard of some of their theories on education, I was quite skeptical. It sounded to me as if they were too optimistic about what children could do on their own; that it was too idealistic. But then, I had the pleasure of visiting their kindergarten, and getting to know some of the children and teachers, and my impressions were very positive. The kindergarten has been working now for about ten years, and has had great successes. When I’m thinking about education, I often consult with them. I find I have learned a lot from their opinions and experiences. Having said all of that, I think that if I had young children again, I would not choose to send them to Montessori schools, but would prefer a traditional Jewish education. Still, I respect their work and methods.

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Jinji comes for a visit

When speaking to them about the subject of self-esteem, they did not recognize the concept. Of course, we were talking Hebrew. And we looked for some parallel in our language, to see if this idea had penetrated our culture. The closest we were able to get, was the concept of ‘recognizing one’s own worth’. I learned that this was considered a valuable ingredient in the education of the young, according to ‘modern education’ in our country. I prefer this name to the term self-esteem, because it is more modest, and more realistic. But listening to these two educators, I soon realized that though the term was different, many of their ideas on what a child needed in order to become a good student and a healthy person were quite similar to the principles espoused by the ‘self-esteem’ proponents in the US. Since this school of thought is so popular in the west, I see no need to explain it further. But let me say, that thanks to my two friends, and examples that they described to me, showing how negative feelings about one’s self could discourage a person from studying, I felt that I was able to understand the issue better than I had understood it at first.

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Jinji and Nechama greeting each other (as cats do)

Esteem is described in the dictionary as ‘a high regard’, admiration, and even reverence. Self-esteem first became popular as a psychological term. It comes from a Greek word meaning ‘a reverence to self’. However, in reading psychological articles on the subject, it seems that the healthy objective is accepting one’s self for whom we are. Unfortunately, the whole push for self esteem is seen as a remedy for an inferiority complex, which is without doubt, a personality aberration. But is self-admiration better than an inferiority complex? I think not. I would consider that, an aberration no less damaging than the first complaint. Narcissism makes a person less sensitive to others, less aware of one’s potential and possibilities. And it distracts a person from work and accomplishment. My friends described ‘ideal’ learning situations in which there was no failure, and no frustration. But what is the true learning experience? For that matter, what is the creative experience all about?

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where I sit in an outdoor café, writing

It is about pushing yourself; holding yourself steady, aimed at the objective, as a pilots steers his ship through a stormy sea. It is work and struggle. It includes countless failures. And what is learned along the way, is that one has to take risks, and be willing to take a dive or a fall… and then must pick himself up, and continue the work despite the humiliation, the bruises and the scratches… and even broken bones on the way to the destination. The artist is a tightrope walker, who usually has a lot more scars than victories and successes. And where is that student, that hasn’t picked himself up after failure, and another failure, and another… sometimes more than he can count. Where do you climb a mountain without getting bruised and banged. I’ll tell you where. At Disneyland. Or watching a movie. Real life isn’t like that at all. And in real life, so often, the strong help the weak, as they climb together, or as they learn together. The students themselves, have compassion for their weaker members. They encourage them to overcome difficulties, and help them to reach the almost inaccessible ledge.

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waiting for the bus

A good student has humility. He knows his limits, and still tries to surpass what he’s already done. He knows that many of his advantages are not to his own credit, but that he was born with a little more intellect… or maybe had a slightly better background, growing up. He is aware of how many know more than he does. And all of this tempers the feeling of exultation when he does succeed. And a poor student should aspire to emulate the behavior of those better than him. And yes, some are better than others. And there is no need for shame over this. Some are taller than others, and some throw a ball faster and more accurately than others, and some learn easier than others… but as long as you’re working at it, you may taste the ecstasy of learning.

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58 responses to “self esteem

  1. A very complex subject and a nuanced reflection, Shimon. I’ve come to the conclusion that however ‘good’ we aim to be as parents, there are subconscious factors which may well influence our children in a way that is wholly out of our control. And that part of growing up, and learning wisdom, is for a parent to accept that there is no such thing as either the perfect child or the perfect parent, and sometimes we have to forgive each other, so that we can move on to greater understanding.

    I agree with you that I would prefer to give my children a more conservative education, but the Montessori method does have much to teach. My brother has become an expert (through self-education, the sort he does best) on how the brain learns, and how therefore teaching children should take this into account – evidence-based teaching and learning.

    • I agree with you, gillyk, about those subconscious factors. And of course, sometimes disagreements between father and mother can give rise to problems that aren’t seen at first. And again I agree with you, that we can learn from many of the different schools, even if we don’t accept them totally. Very nice to meet with you again on this platform., and thank you for your comment.

    • WordsFallFromMyEyes

      ‘nuanced reflection’ – excellent. I do agree.

  2. I taught in private school for 20 years and am married to a veteran public school teacher, so I find it difficult to respond to your education posts with any sense of efficient succinctness, Shimon, but appreciate your comments and reflections.

    I think it’s a generalization to say the students’ self-esteem is a paramount concern in every choice a Western teacher makes. Certainly, broken homes and dysfunctional family systems are more prevalent. This affects the classroom energy and the ability to teach/learn. And it takes years in the classroom to identify students who need more support and encouragement to gain a sense of authority and competence regarding their abilities, and to provide this as best as one can. A students’ emotional state and self-control have a great deal to do with his readiness to learn. Brain science is important as well. So is the demonized word “discipline.”

    There is the increasing technology to master, because it’s required, to keep up with educational needs and the preparation for students’ future careers and lives. And there is the continual sifting of subject matter itself: what knowledge will best equip students to live well, intelligently, productively, healthily, etc. (And all these goals are up for continual philosophical examination as well.)

    Trends come and go and keep the universities’ Education Dept. professors employed, but good teachers–and there are many–close the classroom door and approach their task creatively, employing dozens of techniques and philosophies, and individualizing these as necessary. It’s extremely challenging, as you can imagine, to have 30 children in front of you, perhaps different ones every hour, each with different abilities and needs, and then to try to facilitate a lesson so each emerges with new understanding.

    The current educational “push” seems to be more about values education and making choices that support one’s community…teachers can’t just know their subject and share it, they have to assume aspects of the roles of psychologist, sociologist, parent, and police officer… good parenting is less and less evident, although certainly there are cooperative and supportive parents in every school. (I think the current parents are the result of the self-esteem movement and that’s why they can’t deal with constructive criticism regarding their children. :))

    My own mantra with my middle school students was, “Use your gifts.” This is not quite the same as “Feel good, always, about what you’re doing.” I offered paths for them to begin to discover and name their gifts, and supplied tasks, projects, and group work that allowed them to test and hone these.

    In the private schools where I taught, parents were very (even overly, at times) involved and supportive; my husband has endured far less parental presence in his public high schools. His students come to school hungry, tired, indifferent, defiant, unprepared…and the parent(s), if they can be located, often become defensive and insulting when their children’s behavior and choices are questioned. (This is certainly not true of the entire student population, but enough come to school ill-prepared and ill-humored enough to disrupt smooth sailing regarding the execution of a lesson.)

    Teaching is much more difficult profession than most people realize and teachers are often easy targets for blame and ridicule more correctly aimed at weak parenting and societal norms/media that encourage aggression and defiance over respect.

    We could talk all day and through the night, I’m sure, about education; I’ve very clumsily tried to isolate a few of my own impressions. There are ideal student-teacher relationships and behaviors; there are lovely philosophies and theories, and then there is the reality a teacher faces every day.

    • I appreciate your experience, Catherine, and have no doubts about your capacities of expression. And I’d value your opinion even without the experience, based on what you’ve said in the past. Reading some of the responses, on the previous article as well, I realize the vast differences between the educational system I know, and what’s going on in the west. Let us imagine for a minute, that I was a music teacher, facing one of these modern classrooms, where some children come from broken homes, some come full of resentment and anger, some have no motivation to study, and some consider sending text messages more urgent than what I’m trying to teach. I have a teaching plan, and I know what it is going to take to teach them to read and write music, and to play the instrument. I recognize the needs of the children, but if I start psychological therapy, I know that there is no way they will learn the difficult work of translating some written notes to an enchanting tune on the violin. I do not belittle the needs for psychologist, sociologist, and parents. On the contrary, when I read about the modern classroom, I think these needs are greater than the need to learn how to read and write. But I believe it is unfair… and also doomed to failure, if the teacher is to fill all these needs. I believe there has to be a reorganization of the school system. I have had the experience of teaching more than 30 students in a classroom. But since these were adults, with a great desire to learn, the situation was completely different.

      I agree with your mantra, ‘use your gifts’. Though the need to say such a thing more than once is evidence that the student has serious problems. What you say of some of the students that your husband encountered, sounds to me like a terrible tragedy. The reality that you have shown me can’t be solved by the best of teachers. It is the problem of the society as a whole. Thank you very much for your comment.

  3. I am with you all the way Shimon. As ever I think you go to the nub of the issue. We are becoming far too egocentric, I really do think this focus on ‘self-esteem’, self-actualisation, self help, self this and self that has done us no good at all. Perhaps if people stopped focusing so closely on themselves and reached out to others worse off and dealing with greater problems, their own problems would dissolve and they might actually find whatever it was they were looking to self-help books to find.
    One of the most effective teaching methods I used to employ when a student didn’t understand a concept was to get a student that did to explain it. It was good for both of them. Very simple, very effective and obviously, the student doing the teaching didn’t have a teaching degree and wasn’t moaning about what a difficult job it was.
    Yes teaching can be challenging but all jobs have their challenges. I used to ask at the end of every lesson I taught, “what have we learned today?” This was a vital part of the lesson. To make sure the students understood they were going away with something of value. When I took a new class and I asked this question of them for the first time, the students were often genuinely baffled. What’s he talking about, what have we learned? After a few lessons they cottoned on and the boys, all abilities, would proudly tell me what they’d learned and the less able would be the proudest of them all. Learning was the reward and from that, good things followed. It wasn’t my job to bolster egos. The students did that by themselves.
    I really enjoyed your pictures Shimon, thank you for the post.

    • I agree with your practice of asking one student to explain to another, when the second was unable to understand some problem. I used to use the same system. And it did seem to be good for both. It is true that all jobs have their challenges, but I’m afraid that because of a great amount of difficulties in both family life and education in the west, the teachers are often asked to do the impossible. I understand that Zen and Yoga are very popular in the west. But these disciplines do not spend much time or effort on improving the self-esteem of the students. The student find the proper and respectful way to relate to all others through the learning itself. As you taught your students, so I’ve learned all my life; the learning is the great reward. Thank you very much for your comment.

  4. Dear Shimon, I have been reflecting on the education system I grew up with as a Chinese in Malaysia and how very different the approach to education was compared to that of the Western model. I do believe none of us students or teachers ever heard of the term “self esteem” throughout my schooling years. Looking back I don’t think praise was the norm either. In fact we grew up in a rather strict and disciplined environment – both at home and in school. And yet, in all honesty, I never once felt I had been deprived or denied a wonderful and wholesome education.
    To my understanding, this particular emphasis on self esteem in education and parenting today has become somewhat misguided. Well meaning parents are afraid to curb a child’s rages or tantrums for fear of injuring his self-esteem or creativity. Teachers are expected to praise every little effort that a student makes for fear of the student giving in to discouragement and becoming despondent. And in all this, we underestimate the true worth of the person and even condition the student from a young age that he will only work for praise and not rise up and summon within himself self-perseverence and self-responsibility
    I do very much like the Hebrew understanding of the term “recognizing one’s own worth” because it is the recognition of man’s true self which is far more than just the recognition of his physical self but his higher self.
    The education system which fails to recognise this true nature of the students does a great disservice because it ends up only stroking and boosting the ego of the child. It dishonours a person if we only applaud his outward accomplishments while neglecting character building, virtues, his moral integrity and personal development.
    It’s amazing to think that from my little village school, we all went on to become Asian Scholars and recipients of other international awards, with many today becoming accomplished doctors, lawyers, leading specialists in various fields throughout the world and contributing members of society.
    And we never once heard the term self-esteem. But we were
    given due respect. We were pushed to learn our own potential and limitations. We were taught the value of hard work. We were given affection even if it was never verbal but we knew we were valued.
    Thank you Shimon for your penetrating observation of our little universe. And indeed, it is a good thing when a parent sees his children carrying forward an ever-advancing civilisation. Yuen

    • I imagine that my education might have been a bit different from yours, but I can also say that praise was very rare. I was a good student, but I can only remember praise twice, and one time I found it painfully embarrassing. A child having a rages or tantrums is already cause for worry and very special treatment. I think there is a great difference between self respect and self esteem. I am all for self respect. Along with respect for every other student, and a great respect for the teacher. Most schools of thought consider ego as a disruptive influence which is liable to disturb the peace. And I agree with what you say about character building and values. Thank you very much for your comment, Yuen, especially because it gives us a view of how things are seen in the East as well.

  5. I don’t have any idea about education system but seems your daughter is amazing and I admire her and her friend. Not easy to be in education system… Teachers are always great in our life… Dear Shimon, your photographs fascinated me so much, you know WHY 🙂 Thank you, have a nice weekend, love, nia

    • And thank you very much Nia. It is always such a pleasure to hear from you, even when you modestly state that you have nothing to add. I’m glad you liked the pictures. I was thinking of you when I was surrounded by cats. My best wishes to you always..

  6. Excellent writeup and much food for thought. My family travelled much when I was growing up, so I attended which ever school was near, if at all … Being different did not stop me from absorbing what school offered. Being different made me stronger. My kids are citizens of Cananda and went through the canadian school system. Both did well, and doing well now as adults. Your writeup always gives peace to my heart, Shimon … thank you. (PS: May I use the “greeting cat” pic on occasion in my blog, please?) Love, cat.

    • You’re welcome to use the ‘greeting cat’, and I’m sure you’ll use it well. I consider your example very apt. Because true learning is a pleasure for every student, and can strengthen him or her, and allow him to overcome great adversity. That is the beauty of true education. It is universal in nature. Thank you for your comment, dear cat.

  7. Shimon, I love these pictures of your world – the people, places, and animals that share it… keep them coming please! 🙂 You give a very-well reasoned argument for letting children learn that striving, and even failure, are part of success, and necessary to character building. I don’t believe that school should be a harsh place that strikes fear into children, and certainly there have to be some challenges they can conquer more easily te develop a sense of possibility, but I think in the West we have a great tendency to coddle the children of this generation, to make life too easy for them, they are not learning cause and effect, the value in accomplishment and the lessons learned by failure or poor choices. Enabling has become the norm, and we do disservice to children who must grow up and survive in a very different adult world. We can teach that failure is ok, it is part of the learning process, and that we must also learn to pick ourselves up, re-evaluate and start again! Great post, Shimon!

    • Glad you liked the post, Josie. I am on vacation right now, and might write a bit about my adventures soon. But I do have another chapter to write about this subject. And that is about the actual act of learning. The more I learn about the situation in the western classroom, the more I realize that there are some dire needs on the part of the student, that have little to do with study. And it could be that we have to examine that and find a solution beyond throwing the whole problem into the lap of the teacher. Thank you very much for your comment.

  8. Shimon, as always your post was a pleasure to read: well thought out, well written, and perfectly segmented via the photography you’ve inserted.

    Whatever the brand, method, or guiding philosophy of education, there are many other factors that play into how well a child will do in school. What natural strengths and limitations do they have? What is the home environment like? Is the child hungry due to poverty? At what level are the child’s parents involved—or detached? How well does the child speak the language used in the school they attend? And on and on.

    Is there a perfect educational system/philosophy? I don’t know. It’s good that we contemplate such things. . . .

    • The questions you ask, George, are exactly those that trouble me, since I started writing about the subject, and have learned much from some of the responses and comments. One expects a minimum standard in a classroom. And I worry that maybe we are asking the impossible from those teachers who are forced to face problems that have little to do with study… existential problems, and great difficulties. I believe that I studied in what was very close to a perfect educational system. But it did not have to deal with the problems common in western classrooms today. I do believe that society has to reassess the process of study in the context of the real life conditions in the class room. I have some ideas on that… but I will save them for another day. Thank you very much for your comment.

  9. Shimon, I enjoyed your post and the pictures very much..Thank you.

  10. Failure is just another method of learning – we learn what doesn’t work. I think of it as learning by elimination. 🙂

    I think teachers and parents need to be careful of praising just to make children feel good about themselves. Children are not stupid; they realize if they deserve praise. We should always affirm their humanity (their worth as human beings), but praise should be for their accomplishments, their mastery of skills or understanding. We should help them recognize and enjoy the fact that we all have differing abilities. As you said, there’s no shame in that.

    • I agree with you, yearstricken. I have great faith in honest and straight forwardness between student and teacher, and respect, of course. As others have said here, the greatest reward for learning, is the learning itself, and the knowledge. But it seems that when we talk about education in the west, much of the discussion is about very basic problems that torment the student… and some near impossible demands made of the teacher. It certainly has given me much to think about.

  11. An interesting post. I am not involved in education so I was interested in what the people who are involved had to say. I enjoyed the comments. Your photos are delightful. Nechama meeting the other cat! And I like the shadow of the tree very much. A really good post!

    • Thank you very much, George. I too have learned from the comments. And I’m glad you liked the photos. It is always a pleasure having you take part in the discussion.

  12. I enjoyed this thoughtful and well written post. It’s interesting, but growing up with a western education, I always thought the teaching of self-esteem to be more of a sliding scale. Low self-esteem was a bad opinion of one’s self and high self-esteem meant you may be overconfident and arrogant, but healthy self esteem was a realistically positive self image and healthy confidence in your abilities found somewhere in the middle. I do agree that taking away the option of failure is folly, since you never can get the proper feeling of accomplishment, and it sets young people up for an unrealistic view on how life works. Loved your pictures. 🙂

    • Thank you very much for explaining your view of self-esteem. It makes much more sense when looking at it that way. Because both of the extremes are symptoms of a serious personality aberration. And again, I agree with you that we don’t want to prepare the student for a fantasy world. We want to equip him to live with reality. Thanks for coming by, livesinstone, and I look forward to getting to know you better.

  13. Outstanding thought and between your words and the comments, various aspects of the self-esteem-based philosophy of education is evident. Meanwhile, below are your words that caused me to nod and smile.

    “It is about pushing yourself; holding yourself steady, aimed at the objective, as a pilots steers his ship through a stormy sea. It is work and struggle. It includes countless failures. And what is learned along the way, is that one has to take risks, and be willing to take a dive or a fall… and then must pick himself up, and continue the work despite the humiliation, the bruises and the scratches… and even broken bones on the way to the destination.”

    • Thank you very much, Frank. It’s strange in a way; when I wrote an early article on education, I was reacting to a book I had recently read about the subject, as it is seen in the west. But since then, because of responses and letters I’ve gotten, I’ve become much more interested in this problem, and I’m learning more about it all the time. I am in the process of developing a radical proposal for a change in educational methods in the west. What started out as mild curiosity has become a serious search for answers to what I see as a dangerous social crisis.

      • My brother Michael trained to be a secondary science teacher in his 50s, and had to do with many children who had just ‘given up’ and had no motivation. This encouraged him to look at different ways of learning, and led to his development of the idea of evidence-based teaching. If you might be interested in his ideas (he now runs consultations around the country) , you might like to visit his website: http://www.educationevidence.com/

        These ideas are still very new. I look forward to your next reflection, Shimon.

        • I’ve never had that experience, of trying to teach students who had no motivation to study. The very idea of it scares me. What you say about your brother sounds very interesting, and I will certainly take a look at his website. Thank you very much for your comment, Gill.

        • GIll … thanks for the link. As a former science teacher, I appreciate the fact that your brother sought and found a different way.

        • Hi there, Gill. I checked out the site you mentioned here, and it seems to be not much more than an advertisement for training sessions and videos. From the material on the site, and the links available, which I also checked out, there doesn’t seem to be any solid material about his system of teaching or information about how the brain works. One has to enroll in the courses in order to find any of that.

          • Hello Shimon, I passed on your comments to my brother, and here is his reply:
            ” Send him the ‘Evidence based Teachers Network’ site – http://www.ebtn.org.uk for the sources etc.

            If he’s interested in self –esteem, he might like to follow up Carol Dweck and “Growth Mindset”. ”

            I hope that you will find this more useful.

            • Thank you very much, Gill, for taking the trouble. I did find some important information through that link. On the whole, it seems to me that the advice he give is good, though there are some places where I disagree with him, specifically, on the issue of what doesn’t work. If I were living in your country, I’d probably ask for an introduction. I’m sure we could have a very interesting talk. I wish him success in his work, and good luck too. That is also important.

  14. I\’ve heard of Montissori schools, but admit I know very little of them, other than they are not mainstream, so I appreciate you extending my knowledge.
    Ultimately Shimon I think there are no ideals for everyone, just different ways of doing things. I\’ve taught adults IT, I used to train them to use new computer packages and each and every student entered the room with a different set of attitudes, expectations and way of learning. A tricky task for anyone to handle. What it taught me, and I have no formal education in training, is to listen and watch the students and the lesson will follow.

    • I agree with you, Claire that many of us need very special and individual teaching. And that each of us has different attitudes. And the experience of learning can be very different from one person to the next. I suppose I had a lot of luck in this area of life. I had some wonderful teachers who remain with me, long after we parted company. Thank you very much for your comment.

  15. I am very interested in learning more about your proposal for changing educational methods in the west. That’s an intriguing idea! Keep us informed.

    • Yes, George, I thought I would conclude my thoughts on this subject with that post. It might take a little while, because I want to write first about the ‘act of learning’. I was planning on writing about that this week. But as it happens, I’m on vacation now, and the day before yesterday, I celebrated the first haircut of one of my grandsons, and I thought I might write about that too. But eventually, I will get to it all, I hope. Thanks for your comment.

  16. Another wonderful, thought-provoking post Shimon. I particularly loved your point; “It is work and struggle. It includes countless failures. And what is learned along the way, is that one has to take risks, and be willing to take a dive or a fall…” Personally – I truly believe that if something is worth having it’s worth working hard for – and the struggle that comes with that just makes the rewards taste sweeter. It troubles me that children nowadays (in the UK anyway) are no longer allowed to “compete” in Sport events – and instead “everyone is a winner” so to avoid any disappointment. Unfortunately real life isn’t so kind! Additionally, if everything is handed to us on a plate, how can we learn to appreciate anything?xx

    • I agree with you completely, Jen. And I’ve found that work too can be a great enjoyment. It’s a terrible shame that children in your country are not allowed to compete. It is best to avoid extremism. If everything becomes a competition, that is no good either… but denying the very human desire to compete in order to protect children from the disappointment of losing, could turn them into cripples. Thank you very much for your comment.

  17. I think failure is the greatest hallmark of achievement. He or she that can learn to celebrate failure is on to higher achievement. I try to improve with every click of my shutter. I want every session to be better than the last. I am always seeking a simpler way to edit my photos in a beautiful way. The bad photo propels me to further learning. The harsh shadow makes me seek a better way of lighting a particular scene.

    My failures have taught me more about myself than any achievement I have ever attained. I have accomplished things I never imagined. I study a little every day from ten minutes to an hour.

    Failure has taught me what I’m best at!!! 🙂

    I think confidence is huge in study though I never really thought about it until a couple a years ago when a lawyer friend was telling me about tutoring a young student. He told me that he was trying to get her to believe in her abilities.

    I believe students do not need inspiration so much as not to have someone drench their enthusiasm with unconstructive criticism! A peaceful environment to study in is great. A great family life is very helpful. I think a strife filled family life can greatly detract from one’s attention.

    I think American schools test excessively. Sure tests are essential to make sure someone is progressing as they should but they can also take away one’s confidence. A true student does not need a test to tell them they are learning! Look at Edison and Einstein’s early childhood teachers that said they had learning disabilities.

    I love reading about people like Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington that self-educated themselves. I have friends that hate study after graduating from college. Sad!

    I do not think growth comes from protecting a person from failure. Kids need to lose and learn to deal with it as life is filled with loses. I played on teams that lost many games but it always inspired me to work to be a lot better the next year. I never missed a workout session in the summer when I was playing football. I always tried to workout out with just a little more weight every time I went into the gym.

    I can testify that people are definitely becoming desensitized to others. It is rare to hear someone say excuse me or for them to hold the door for another. They walk around stores never looking up to see if they are in someone’s way. They stand in the middle of an aisle for ages as you wait to pass by never paying you any mind.

    I managed a lady’s boutique that no one else could sell out of but my customer service was over the top. I would carry the women’s bags out permitting no one else was in need of assistance in the store. I never rushed customers. Some would stay three hours setting around chatting with their friends. I always thought the longer I can keep them the more they will spend. I would open the door if I saw them coming. Customer service is a lost art.

    Great post!

    • Yes, BoJo, we certainly agree about the adventure of learning. What you’ve told us here about your own experiences, bring back memories of mine. I too enjoy studying every day. As a teacher, I found criticism one of the best methods in the classroom, and I used to hold a critique after we’d complete studying a particular subject, in which the students would take turn criticizing one another, and these were often the most interesting and valuable lessons. Though I did study in America for a while, it was fifty years ago, and it was a very fine institute. I didn’t think there were too many tests then, and I have no idea what’s going on there now. It is a great shame if people are definitely becoming desensitized to others. This is something that must be repaired. It is always very good to see you. Thank you for your comment.

  18. In the U.S, where I live now, self esteem is a huge topic. Unfortunately, self esteem seemed to be taught through the concept of “you’re all good and wonderful and great”. This invokes a false sense of reality, which in turn is more damaging to one’s self esteem, or sense of self and expectations of life and future. Instead of being introduced to the ebbs and flows of life, children are being taught to only think that they are terrific in everything, and there’s no room for improvement. Instead of parents showing them love for who they really are, they are being introduced to an exeggerated perception of who they are, and their accomplishment. This creates confusion in the child, it actually intensifies their insecurity, as they were conditioned to think that everything they do is great, and they were protected from failures. Instead of seeing failure as an opportunity, it is being viewed as an emotional catastrophe. And as we know, perceptions is everything, or almost.

    • I agree – it’s a big problem. Parents are afraid to be honest in case they do ‘damage’ to their children’s confidence. So the kids either have hugely unrealistic expectations, or learn that they can’t trust those who tell them their work is wonderful all the time. But making a critique of someone’s work is viewed with great suspicion – on the grounds that ‘if you’re not totally bowled over by my work then you are a nasty person because you are not making me feel good about myself.’

      It all gets very complicated!

      • It is definitely a problem, Gill. Even teaching college students, when I asked a new class to criticize the work of one another, I would occasionally encounter embarrassment. And I would have to convey to them just what constructive criticism was all about, and that in fact it was an act of friendship. Learning about criticism should be part of education too.

    • I agree with you completely, Rachel, and since you’ve said it so well, I won’t add a thing. Just to thank you for your comment, and for taking part in our discussion here. I have learned so much about this problem since my original article on education, that it looks like there’ll be a series on the subject.

    • Thank you very much, Frank, for the link. I read the article, and loved it. I plan to discuss some of the issues on my blog here, and then I will give the link again. I hadn’t seen this one before.

  19. This is almost like walking through someone else’s garden, Shimon…beautiful and compelling thoughts, ideas to mull-over, things that I might add to my own garden when I get home…and while my wife and I have raised four of our children to adulthood and have participated as we did in their educations, we still have a little one at home and have many more miles to walk on this road. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and conversation with the rest of us…and your images, too…it was almost like sitting around your table with you again…. Such a pleasure to visit with you….

    • Actually, Scott, this is one of the things I find so gratifying about blogging. How many times, I used to read an article in a journal or in a book, and discuss it afterwards around the table with friends. And here in cyberspace, we have the opportunity of discussing things at the same time, with other readers, and share ideas. I’m on vacation right now, so I don’t respond promptly… and often, it happens that I’m involved in something, and so don’t respond in time. But I do enjoy having that opportunity. Thank you very much for your comment.

      • Participating in the blogging world certainly does provide us with greater community, Shimon…how would many of us have met without it? I hope you have a refreshing time on your vacation…and you are very welcome….

  20. It is so gratifying to read your feelings about “self-esteem”. I have been a music teacher for many many years and have often gone beyond the mere teaching into an area where I know I can nurture and help the child grow in other ways even as his fingers gain dexterity over those piano keys.

    But I have always balked at the term “self-esteem: for much the same reasons as you do. And you, Shimon, are the only other person I have heard talk thoughtfully about this much abused and misunderstood term.

    I have told countless parents … ” You cannot “esteem” yourself. Esteem is earned and hard earned. It is a term for adults who have achieved something or demonstrated superb qualities of character, You cannot “esteem ” a child. And it is preposterous to encourage a child to have “SELF” esteem. That’s just saying … ” Look, develop a really BIG ego …. and demand praise for it.”

    What sane parent would want their child to grow up like that?

    My mantra has always been … “Everyone, even the smallest child … deserves to have a sense of self RESPECT…… that is a valid goal.” And an adult who understands each little child as a human being deserving respect, is on the right track. You can scold a child and still respect his being. You can nurture and encourage him to understand self respect as one of the guideposts and moral compasses to lead him through life,

    Frankly I find the term “self-esteem” ridiculous. It is another term for “ego”.

    But “self-respect” is another thing entirely. And respect is what every child must learn, For himself AND for others.

    • Thank you for your comment, nikkitytom. What you say is absolutely true, and so obvious, that the only reason we must talk about it, is that there seems to be a popular movement in the west, which is willing to sacrifice the future of these young people for the sake of a ‘feel good’ philosophy. Just as you say, this is the nurturing of the ego, and not in the child’s best interest.

  21. I like the ‘Recognising one’s own worth’ term. It’s only when we stop comparing ourselves to others that we can really achieve what we are supposed to do within our own limitations, big or small.

    • I think the term I like the best is ‘self respect’. I agree with you, that it’s no good comparing ourselves to others all the time. But in matters such as study, It is good to know who are the better students, so that we can learn from them, and know who are the weak students, so that we can help them. I have had the good fortune to learn from some very fine teachers in my life, and they were quite modest. Thank you, Fatima, for coming by.

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