I once read that kids need 12 hugs a day to thrive. The idea is that kids who are hugged that much are probably being shown and told how valuable they are. And let’s face it, not all kids get the same loving kindness at home, which impacts their ability to lead full lives — not just at home, but also in school. Because after all, when kids aren’t thriving emotionally, how can we expect them to do well in school?
That’s the question one school principle in Winterport, Maine recently wondered. Her brilliant solution? Self-talk mirrors.
Several weeks ago, a series of brightly colored mirrors with positive self-talk phrases appeared on the walls throughout the Leroy H. Smith School in Winterport. The elementary school’s principal, Dawn Moore, was inspired by a similar project she spotted online that aimed to promote different kinds of learners. Moore took this idea, added her own tweaks, and now it’s the talk of the town.
“We want our students to know how important they are,” Moore tells Babble. “It doesn’t matter your struggles, what matters are your attitudes and belief in yourself. We consciously teach students positive self-talk and belief in themselves weekly, but felt there needed to be more.”
Moore says the mirrors allow students to literally remind themselves of their worth and their abilities every single day. “It is not reflective of how you did in class,” she says, “but reflective of whom you are and what you can be if you believe in yourself.”
The mirrors all hang at eye-level with the students and were installed in common spaces throughout the halls. And so far, the experiment has been a huge success with both kids and teachers. The current hope is that they will remain a permanent fixture in the school.
The staff at Leroy H. Smith plan to mix up the messages every few weeks, in order to keep things fresh and also so that kids get the chance to experience positive self-talk from a variety of perspectives.
“Our students come from very diverse backgrounds,” Moore shares with Babble, “and our intention is to make sure they know every single one of them has opportunity and ability!”
As for what the kids think of this project? Moore says that so far, they think it’s fabulous.
“At first, the students loved looking and making faces and silly actions (which was so fun to watch),” she says, “but after the novelty of ‘look at me’ was over, we have observed many students looking at themselves, proudly, reading the sentence above the mirror.”
One heartwarming example Moore shared was of a young girl who was feeling sad and being generally negative recently. That’s when a teacher brought her to one of the positive self-talk mirrors that read, “I am beautiful”.
“This teacher came to me in tears,” Moore tells Babble. “The student looked in the mirror and repeated the sentence and said, ‘You and Mrs. Moore think I am beautiful?’ We have learned it doesn’t take much to help students feel special and know they are important.”
For Ms. Moore and her community of teachers and parents, the most important message for kids is empowerment.
“Always believe in them and let them know you do through successes and failures!” she says. “Words matter!”
She couldn’t be more spot on.