Literature to Build Sense of Self

In a recent conversation, a person was relaying their perception of the qualities that I possessed and those that I lacked or needed to work on. During this conversation, I found myself hearing the conversation as if I was hovering above and viewing it as a movie.  I call these moments “cinematic brain epiphanies” which basically means my brain has to switch to another perspective for me to actually grasp the event happening. This conversation was so disconnected to my own belief of self.  Was she talking about me? Is this how people see me?

This left me with the following question to ponder:  Is our self-concept built on what we see through the looking glass and know about ourselves or is it found in the reflection we see from the eyes of another?

Our self concept is made up of the beliefs we hold for ourselves which is filtered through the view of others.  Since we cannot be a fly on the wall and truly determine what others think of us, we use their words, body language, actions, etc to determine a belief system based on what we think others believe which is called meta-perspective.  

What makes our sense of self so different at times from what others believe?  Others determine a judgment from both visible and invisible traits that they perceive.  R.D. Laing (2008) states, “A direct perspective is taken when you observe and interpret another’s behavior while a meta-perspective occurs when you try and, Infer another’s perceptions or understand their experience.”  Our outlook and self-concept is constantly being shaped by how others treat and react to interactions with us. It is shaped by how we both perceive and respond to these perceptions.  When two perspectives are disconnected it leads to a  feeling of misunderstanding and a lack of interpersonal connection.

Both our own self-concept and meta-perspective are  shaped by two elements:  visible and invisible self.  When our students peer through the looking glass they are showing others their visible self. Their appearance, their actions, language, etc. help to share how they feel about themselves and the “visible self” they show others.  What we forget to remind our students is that others are interpreting their actions and equating these with character traits or emotions. For example, you do not speak up when you talk which can be interpreted by some as shy, disinterested or disrespectful. All three different interpretations of the same action. What we show others is the data they use to interpret who we are. Our actions and words should speak louder than our visible self and ensure it is the self we want others to see. A lack of self confidence or self-concept can skew our behaviors around someone and therefore affect their perception of us.

My original question:  Is our self-concept built on what we see through the looking glass and know about ourselves or is it found in the reflection we see from the eyes of another?  Both.  Our self concept is built by what we see every day but also what we project to others.  We must develop a true sense of who we are looking at in the mirror but also our words, actions, gestures, body language, etc. should show the world who we are as well.  

My “epiphany” was that I had not allowed this person to see who I was because I did not reflect it.  As you plan for the new school year, begin to explore resources and ideas to help students develop a positive sense of themselves AND to learn that their invisible self is shown through the visible.  Choose literature with strong and interesting characters that show students how actions, dialogue, thoughts and feelings make direct connections to character traits.  By our students making this connection, they can develop a stronger sense of who they are and make connections that how they act and do is creating their self image, meta-perception AND character.

A few Resources:



Character Trait List:


Book List to teacher Character Traits:


Stop Finding Reasons to Fail

At a recent technology conference, surrounded with swirling lights, flashing sounds and gadgets, virtual experiences, and robots, my brain began bursting with possibilities. My thoughts changed quickly to my desk tumbling with a mound of papers awaiting my return. The tabs open on my computer that held tasks awaiting completion.  Most of all my daily frustration of not feeling effective or “enough” for my school created a panic. Anxiety swelled up and I wondered, “Why am I failing?”  Once I was fearless and jumped to conquer any task that was set before me. Suddenly, the following words from the speaker sliced through all my thoughts like a flash; “Stop finding reasons to fail.”


What has changed?

Am I finding reasons to fail?

Have I developed poor self esteem?

Then it hit me, I have heard repeatedly the idea of self efficacy and the need to develop this in our students and teachers–I AM MISSING IT!


Self efficacy is different from self esteem. Self esteem is simply feeling good about yourself and how you perform.  Self efficacy is when you believe you have the necessary skills to reach a goal or complete a task and feel capable of success.  Thinking again of the words, “Stop finding reasons to fail,” it occurred to me that I have become so anxious in my own abilities that I stopped striving to conquer things I once would have.


Every word spoken during that particular technology session, after the quote above, was completely lost while I juggled a hundred thoughts and dozens of emotions.   What has happened to my self efficacy and how do I restore it?  As educators, we are working in a time of both change and road blocks.  Change can bring frustration but, also, great possibilities.  Road blocks are opportunities waiting for our creativity.  Somewhere I have lost sight of my abilities to conquer the difficult tasks that once inspired me to take action.


I read several articles about self efficacy to see how I could restore my own and wanted to share my findings in case there are others who are feeling the same way.  Sarah Silverman (2009) shared, “Thomas Guskey (1950–) characterizes teachers’ perceptions of control as based primarily in the teacher (internal) or other factors (external) and variable across situations. If control over an outcome is attributed internally, individuals are more likely to engage in a behavior.”  This statement reminded me that I cannot let a turbulent time in education make me believe that I have no control over the situations in our schools. I have become so overwhelmed, I have started to sit back and believe that only others can make change.  This is simply not true.


Silverman wrote, “Teachers with higher levels of efficacy are more likely to learn and use innovative strategies for teaching, implement management techniques that provide for student autonomy, set attainable goals, persist in the face of student failure, willingly offer special assistance to low achieving students, and design instruction that develops students’ self-perceptions of their academic skills.”  After reading this statement, I realized I do have control and have the ability to reach students and teachers with quality strategies and teaching practices. I have the ability to share data that may have camouflaged a problem or uncover a learning need that was once undiscovered. I have knowledge to share and skills to combat many problems that our students and teachers face.


Can I do this alone?  No!  Surrounded by my colleagues, each with unique and special gifts, we can make change and face obstacles before us each day.  In fact, we can create collective efficacy, “Goddard, Hoy and Hoy (2000) define this as the “perceptions of teachers in a school that the efforts of the faculty as a whole will have a positive effects on students with the faculty in general agreeing that teachers in this school can get through to the most difficult students,” at a difficult time. We, as a school, can make positive change if we believe we have that ability.  Together, lifting each other’s gifts and abilities, we can meet any challenge before us and help our students’ succeed.


I, for one, will rebuild my self efficacy by changing my small space in the world and helping to make those around me stronger and better.  I will no longer “find excuses to fail” but will seek opportunities to attain and succeed.



This video was an inspiration. I am sure you have seen it before but what a great reminder that we can make a difference by making change as an individual and that it does matter.



Resources accessed for this blog article:

Article accessed on March 5, 2016:

Article accessed on March 4, 2016:

Article accessed on March 3, 2016:





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