Teaching “Sound Self-Love” | Hooray for Monday

December 20, 2021

By Aleta Margolis, Founder and President, Center for Inspired Teaching

Hooray for Monday is a weekly blog filled with questions, ideas, reflections, and actions we can all take to remodel the school experience for students. 

"If we give our children sound self-love, they will be able to deal with whatever life puts before them." -bell hooks

As teachers we often speak about expressing love for our students. We want our kids to know we love them, and that’s as it should be. But bell hooks, the trailblazing feminist author and changemaker who died last week, challenges us to go to a deeper, and perhaps more important place. What does it mean to “give our children sound self-love”? How can we teach our kids to love themselves?

That’s a tall order. But as thoughtful teachers who know how to build relationships with our students, we have places to start. We can…

…Teach our students to see themselves as contributors and problem solvers.

For example:

…Teach our students to look to themselves first for validation and approval, before looking to others – even to us as teachers.

When expressing appreciation for students, keep the focus on the student. For instance:

…Teach them how to shape the world, as well as understand it.

For example:

  • Delve into age-appropriate studies of how the air we breathe – clean and fresh or heavy with carbon and emissions or fragrant with the smells of dinner cooking – impacts our bodies and minds and our continued growth.

  • Learn how the interactions we experience – with teachers and family members who love us unconditionally, with those who judge us and make assumptions about our capabilities, with strangers who approach us with simple curiosity – shape our emerging sense of identity and comfort in our communities.

  • Learn how the choices we make – speaking kindly or sarcastically to a parent, choosing the subject to explore in a research paper, committing to getting more sleep – shape our own lives and the lives of others.

bel hooks shaped the world through her work and her wisdom. She taught generations to rethink our definition of feminism – expanding the definition to be intentionally inclusive of Black women, and of all women – and so much more. She had the extraordinary ability to communicate through her writing in a voice that reached, and transformed, adults, teens, and very young children.

We can remember and honor bel hooks by reading and re-reading her books on our own and with our students, and also through our interactions with our students.

What does it mean to teach our kids, starting at a young age, how to shape their world, rather than solely being shaped by it?

This is the joyful, challenging, everyday work of teachers – giving our students sound self-love, as we teach them to understand and to shape the world.

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