It is very important to nurture self expression in kids from a very young age so that they can grow and evolve into wholesome individuals. Let’s first understand what self expression is. The way we share or express our thoughts and feelings is defined as self expression. One can choose to self express by what they say, how they look, how they act or by using some other form of expression. Through self expression, children get to know their unique traits which differentiate them from others.
When students are encouraged to self express, it builds their self-confidence, independence and creativity. They start by knowing themselves better and feeling comfortable in their own skin. On the other hand, if a child does not express themselves, they will never get to know their individual strengths and inclinations and always try to fit in, leading to low self-esteem and unhappiness.
Since it is so important to teach students about self expression, let’s go through some of the ways that can help them to express themselves.
1. Arts as a medium for expression
Each person has its own way of expressing things. Some children may not be good with words, but can express themselves really well through painting, music, dance or any other art form. Teachers can motivate the students to try different art forms and see which one they enjoy the most. The students should be allowed to indulge in any such activity and act without rules and restraint.
Art is a therapy which improves the physical, mental and emotional well-being of a person. It can unlock the creative potential of the student and make him feel good about himself.
2. Talk to them about their feelings
A teacher is not just a mentor to the student, but also his friend and confidant. Teachers should put some time aside to talk to each of their students about them. Provide an atmosphere where they can open up and come to you whenever they feel the need to talk without feeling embarrassed. Discuss their emotions and help them grow into self-aware individuals.
3. Encourage exploration
A sense of curiosity and exploration needs to be inculcated within a child in order to discover his unique traits. Instead of assigning pre-selected activities to them, you should allow the students to explore their own interests. Let them see whether they are interested in theatre or robotics or poetry. The teacher should act as a facilitator and guide for the students to make them capable of deciding for themselves. The medium of self expression can be different for different students. Make sure they are given the opportunity to present their thoughts in the way they feel is most appropriate.
4. Offer them choices
An important aspect of self expression is self confidence since the students will express their inner emotions only when they are confident about themselves. To make them self-confident, the teacher should introduce the concept of choice to them. Let them make their own choices and be responsible for those choices.
The students can be made to choose between different projects or even subjects. They should be given more freedom to decide on some part of their curriculum and activities they want to participate in. This will help them know what they like and don’t like which will shape their understanding of themselves.
5. Let them develop their own style
It is often rightly said that clothing is a form of self expression. Schools can have a particular day when the students are encouraged to wear what they like. They should be allowed to pick their clothing themselves even if it looks silly. This will help them define themselves as individuals and give them the confidence to make their own decisions in other areas of life as well.
6. Encourage them to write each day
Daily journaling is a very beneficial habit for everyone. You should make the students maintain a daily journal and scribble anything that comes to their minds. Initially it can be a challenge for the students in terms of what to write and how to write, but gradually they will find the right words and expressions to convey their thoughts. This will give them clarity and help them to vent out any negative emotions.
7. Take them outdoors once in a while
The classroom can become a restricted space for a child where he sees himself as similar to other students and might even start following the crowd. Therefore, it is important that once in a while you arrange for a school trip or excursion. Learning in a different setting will help them to look at things differently and gain perspective. This will make them more open-minded and accepting of oneself and each other.
8. Facilitate sport activities
Just like arts, sports is an excellent medium for young children to express themselves and channelize their energies in the right direction. Solo activities like cycling, martial arts, etc can develop focus and confidence in them whereas group activities will teach them team spirit and cooperation.
Examples of Self-expression
People everywhere are expressing themselves in different ways. Some common ways include:
1) Discussing a new experience and how it made them feel
2) Wearing something unique and expressive of one’s personality
3) Congratulating a friend enthusiastically and creatively when they achieved something
4) Playing guitar and singing on the street
5) Making a video about themselves and posting it on social media
6) Writing a play or poem to express one’s thoughts
It is important to learn self expression since it gives shape to your identity and personality. Teachers should not view students as a collective but as individuals with different strengths and weaknesses. They should help each student to bring out his individuality. A combination of teaching styles should be used to cater to different types of students. Such an atmosphere where their uniqueness is appreciated and weaknesses are not presented as taboo, will inspire them to express their thoughts, opinions and emotions freely without the fear of facing judgement or criticism. It is hence crucial to create a safe space for expression.