Who Am I? It’s probably the world’s longest running question. Many of us spend a lifetime trying to understand exactly who we are, what makes us unique, what we need from others, and what we must contribute to this world. People with a strong sense of self are able to make better decisions and are able to set boundaries for themselves. They tend to have less stress and more self-esteem. Most notably, they can more fully participate in relationships with friends and families.

Self-awareness is one of those skills that transcends all content areas and provides a foundation for all learning. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) is an organization dedicated to making social and emotional learning an integral part of education from preschool through high school, and its framework includes self-awareness as one of 5 competencies for social and emotional learning. But how do we foster these qualities through practical strategies? After all, our students spend every day absorbing and investigating information. In order to make self-awareness a priority, we need to create learning moments that are memorable, meaningful, and fun!

Making Space and Making Time

As every teacher knows, sometimes the simplest strategies can go a long way in promoting student development. I invite you to try any of these self-awareness activities with your students:

  • SMART Goal-Setting: Help students take ownership of their learning by having them craft SMART goals. For a particular objective, support students in setting goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. In doing so, your able to build student independence and encourage them to consider how their choices will impact the work they do.
  • Reflection Journal: Journaling is demonstrated to help students retain learning, and to help them manage and process their own experiences in the classroom. Incorporate a reflection journal for academic reasons, or to cultivate self-awareness at the end of each lesson.
  • Positive Self-Talk: Students need help knowing what to say to themselves to stay motivated. Saying things such as, “This is too hard!” or “I don’t know how to do this!” become barriers to developing perseverance. Teach students alternative language, such as, “I know I can do this!” or “If I get stuck, I can ask a friend or the teacher for help!
  • Meditate: Yes, meditate. Meditation can help students by improving their moment-by-moment awareness. Most forms of meditation begin with focusing on, and appreciating the simplicity of, inhaling and exhaling. During these meditations, have students ask themselves a set of questions, such as: “What am I trying to achieve?”, “What am I doing that is working?” and “What am I doing that is slowing me down?
Know Thyself

The beauty of self-awareness is that you’re never too young or too old to work on it. So don’t neglect your students’ mental and emotional growth. Students with a healthy sense of self-awareness will always go farther in life than a genius can go alone. Let’s make our classrooms an empowering place where students can grow into healthy, inquisitive thinkers together!

*Image courtesy of Mathias Krumbholz via Wikimedia Commons.

We hope you are all staying healthy and safe during this difficult time. For more free educational resources, or ideas on how to promote healthy SEL, simply follow this link!