I have twenty years of classroom experience, but it was only ten years ago that I discovered how important it is to praise and value children’s self-esteem. I work with my students in an interdisciplinary manner and carry out conversation activities that help direct our minds towards contemplative and meditative practices.
The idea is to bring out the best in the children. For a few minutes, we give thanks for everything we have and think about dreams that have already come true. Despite some early resistance, we gradually began to achieve our goals. At the Centro de Educação Integrada de Maracajaú (the Maracajaú Integrated Education Center), in Maxaranguape, in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, the concentration of fifth grade students at the elementary school has improved, greatly facilitating performance in school activities.
In order for students to gain confidence and show off their interests, I organize small study groups with monitors. I distribute them according to different levels of learning, allowing them to ask questions and learn together. By realizing that they can help in the learning processes of their peers, they feel useful and become more confident.
Every day we try to use positive words and affirmative sentences. In our classroom we have developed a “praise notebook” and a “wisdom suitcase” with books and altruistic stories. We make the notebook with scrap paper and decorate it with cuttings, collages and creative drawings by students.
We also call this activity “the friendship mail-run”. During the week, we choose a moment at the beginning or end of the class to write praise to colleagues, teachers or anyone in the school community. It’s an important moment, which in addition to stimulating reading and writing, helps to improve relationships in the school.
The project is being expanded, with other teachers in the final years of elementary school working on the idea. The praise notebook is also used by the teaching staff and other school staff. We leave it in the teachers’ room and at some point during the day we compliment the qualities of our colleagues to maintain a harmonious working environment.
I have been working on this project for ten years, because I put myself in the place of the students, who are accustomed to spending the whole morning being told off, doing everything the teachers ask and being forced to move seats so they don’t talk to the student beside them.
I have two daughters and I always ask how they would like their teachers to act in class. With their feedback, I have broadened my morning teaching with innovative activities that seek to bring together practice and books to transform theory classes in a challenging way.
The teacher Marcos Rogério Silvestre allowed me to get to know, study and deepen my knowledge within the Projeto ncora (Anchor Project). We learned from our work colleagues and especially from the educator Jose Pacheco about autonomy, different ways of evaluating children and how to take time to listen to understand the appeal of each of our great thinkers. Everyone is different, learns differently and likes different things.
Even working in a small fishing community, I find that parents are grateful for the overall education of their children. They get involved in small action projects and also say that they’ve noticed a change of behavior and attitudes on the part of the children. Through emotional and affective education, I try to prepare the children for a new world.
*** Sandra Cristina da Silva Cassiano
An educator with experience in clinical psycho-pedagogy and institutional psycho-pedagogy. She is a teacher at the Centro de Educação Integrada de Maracajaú (the Maracajaú Integrated Education Center), in Maxaranguape, Rio Grande do Norte. She has worked as a coordinator and has experience in special education, and has worked in multifunctional resource classrooms.