High schoolers learn to have, and build, self-esteem

March 30, 1993|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Staff Writer

Tamieko Ross sits in a rocking chair, greeting a steady stream of preschool children who come into the Little Bear Nursery at Hammond High School.

"Hi, Jamal, hi, Jay," the 17-year-old says to a couple of boys who come bouncing into the room. To a little girl in a plaid dress and matching red and white hair ribbons, she says: "Oh, Lauren, you look very pretty today."

Tamieko is not only enhancing the preschoolers' self-esteem, she is building her own as well.

Under a 4-year-old partnership with Howard County General Hospital, students at three public high schools are learning how to develop their own self-esteem by teaching preschool children colors, ABCs, and numbers.

"It gives them an opportunity to develop leadership skills and organization skills," said Marilyn Lauffer, a registered nurse and education specialist at Howard County General Hospital. Ms. Lauffer teaches a four-hour session called "Building Self-esteem," at Hammond, Howard and Glenelg high schools.

At Hammond, the segment is part of a yearlong course called "Exploring Childhood" taught by home economics teacher Jan Thurman.

The program builds teens' self-esteem by encouraging them to "actually go before a class and teach," said Hammond home economics teacher Jan Thurman.

That lesson is not lost on the teen-agers.

"It's a fun class," said Karen Thompson, 16. "You're in charge of the class. You make up your own plans."

"Plus [the children] look up to you," chimed in Danyette Burke, 17. "It makes you feel really good."

Eleven preschool children from the Hammond High School district visit the school's Little Bear Nursery three days a week to work with the teens on colors, numbers and letters. The teens plan and conduct all the activities and lessons, which must stimulate the preschoolers' emotional, physical, social and intellectual awareness. The students must raise $2,000 by the end of the year to pay for the materials they need.

"It's a nice exchange." Ms. Thurman said. "The high school students have a chance to teach and practice self-communication skills and the nursery school kids have a chance to grow in specific developmental areas."

Self-esteem is important because it affects lifelong happiness and success, Ms. Lauffer said. For teen-agers, a positive self-esteem can be doubly important; it can help them resist peer pressure and feel good about themselves.

"They're just spreading their wings," she said. "There's so much for teens to work on." For four weeks, Ms. Lauffer guides the teens in hourlong discussions about their post-graduate ambitions, and how they can enhance the children's self-esteem, communication and decision-making skills, and coping strategies.

Coping strategies include deep breathing and exercise, and building a good support system of family, friends and co-workers.

"Having some good coping strategies helps them to become more stress-resistant," Ms. Lauffer said.

The teen-agers take the lessons to heart. The day after they learn how to nurture self-esteem in preschoolers, they praise the youngsters, chide them when they misbehave and hold them.

After she compliments the little girl in plaid, Tamieko explains that praise "makes [the children] feel good about themselves."

The teens also assign the youngsters jobs, such as feeding the goldfish or leading the class in the pledge of allegiance. "They feel important when they have a job," explains Vanessa Thompson, 16.

The class has not only boosted their self-esteem, the high school students said, but helped them to understand their own teachers, and even learn baby-sitting skills.

"It's real life," said Vanessa.

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