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21 Princes Street, Kensington, Whangarei, New Zealand

Phone: 09 437 2742

Email: mairtown@nka.org.nz

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Monday, 22 February 2016

The best part of me

A couple of weeks ago, I shared, with a small group of children, a book titled ‘The best part of me’ by Wendy Ewald. What is so lovely about this particular book is that it was part of a project – Literacy through photography – which records children’s very honest yet beautiful words about their bodies, captured alongside some stunning photography.

After sharing this book with the children I became curious about how our tamariki at Mairtown regard their own bodies: What do they like best and why? Rather than using photography, I encouraged the children to study themselves in a mirror then, providing pen and paper, asked them if they’d like to draw the part of their body that they liked the best. This took a great deal of thought and contemplation. Many children focused in on one aspect of their bodies then, after looking in the mirror, changed their minds to another, then another. It was very tricky indeed to just think of one thing and many just had to settle on two or more! But what has come out of this has been truly amazing, and I have noticed how the book has been a wonderful catalyst for sparking meaningful conversations and promoting a positive self-image for all the children.

As I chatted with the children, and they carefully examined themselves, our conversations and observations together appeared to boost the children’s perceptions of themselves. As many children sat and considered what they felt was their best part, their friends were keen to help them out – I like your eyes as they are colourful; Your best part are your feet as they run so so fast and dance well. I can't help but feel the whole experience has been really beneficial for developing a positive self-image as well as enabling us as small groups to look at how we are all different, yet also so similar; not only did we develop a positive self esteem of ourselves but also of those around us.

The human soul needs actual beauty more than bread – D H Lawrence

Self-esteem is an interesting notion to tackle as a teacher but such an important and valuable possession to have for life.

Self-esteem is about valuing who you are. It is about self-respect and liking yourself. It is not conceit or boastfulness, but about believing in yourself and what you can do in the world… Children are not born with self-esteem. It is learned through how parents and other important people feel about them, and treat them… Self-esteem gives you the confidence to have a go at something new, and helps you build resilience to overcome setbacks...Self-esteem is feeling that you have a place in the world where you belong – that you are part of a family where you matter. It is knowing about your roots and having confidence in your future (Child and youth health, 2016)

Unlike the original book, I encouraged the children to draw their ‘best part’. This proved really successful and as soon as they completed their drawings - which meant really studying themselves carefully - they were able to put into words much more fluently the reasons they liked that part of their body best.

Drawing nurtures children’s abilities to think, feel and imagine and to share ideas with others (Kolbe, 2007)

Here is just a selection of the some of the children's thoughtful words and observations:

Jonah : I like my hair cut cause my daddy cuts my hair. I like my ears cause they are listening and I listen when mummy tells me to feed the cats. And I love my cheeks because I like them cause mummy kisses me on my cheeks. I like my smile cause my mummy gives me kisses on my smile. I like my head cause it looks like me.

Raina: Hmm, it’s your shoulders that are best. That’s because I put bears on my shoulders and it makes me happy.

Finn: My favourite part is my hand because I can press up, and I can climb, and they play dinosaurs. My hands are small, my hands can make claws! And my hands like playing animals like sea animals, My hands help tidy up and give hugs to momma.

Sienna: I like my hands best. So that’s because I can move my hands, they pick up things and they can tidy my room, they work and go and build things. If I didn’t have my hands I wouldn’t be able to do anything. And when I’m scared at bed time I wouldn’t be able to hold onto something – what would I do? –I guess I’d have to be a bit braver.

Sadie: The best part of me is my face, it has my nose, which has a red dot on it and two nostrils, and eyes and teeth and a tongue. My eyes are colourful and I also love my hands cause they have nail polish. My nose I like, it can tell me when it's dinner time.

Tamsyn: I like my teeth best because I want to eat my fingers – ouch (laughing). They are white and too little and my tongue is there. I have only 9 teeth on my drawing but 16 in my mouth. I eat with teeth and I have to clean my teeth .... a lot!

Tanner: My best thing is my eyes, yes I like my eyes best. I like them as I can see things like animals and like motorbikes, my eyes are green and white. They are the part of my body I like best.

Ruby's nose

Ruby: I like my hands best because I can grab things with them, they can draw books, they can put my shoes on and sometimes I wear polish on my nails from my make up box. I like dressing myself with my hands and I also like my nose because it can smell things like lollies and they have two nostrils.

And then of course there are the drawings and thinking of the children talking about what they liked best about us (their teachers), their friends and their family members! Here is a little peek into what Sadie liked best about Susie,

 I like her lovely ears best cause they have earrings in them.

And Danielia's thoughts on Sienna,

Hmm there's lots I like best, I like her hair...maybe it's her head and her eyes. Her eyes are really nice and happy and big.

Then of course, there is Ruby's opinion of me,

                           I  like your hair, cause, it's actually quite soft!

This has been a really beautiful project to work with alongside the children. I wish I could have shared all the children's lovely ideas and thoughts, however I hope you have enjoyed reading the selection I have provided as much as I did.

Ka kite koutou,