Zespół Szkół i Przedszkola w Domosławicach

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Self-esteem workshops for the classroom

“Body talk” experiment

In Polish

Nowadays, a plethora of students during the school years tend to fight with the problems connected with extremely low self-esteem, or negative approach to their body image. This is certainly influenced by today’s media, which presents the idealized picture of a human body. A woman should be slim, tall, with long hair, wearing brand-new clothes, while man should follow the latest trends in hairstyle, wearing tailored clothes imposed by fashion designers. In Poland, this image touches especially the pupils, aged 11-14, who commence the life of a teenager.

To answer to the above presented problem and help the students to accept their own silhouettes, the teachers of Civics and English organized special workshops during the classes, and took only girls aged 14 into consideration. This is because, the females are mostly affected by that point.

The experiment during Civics classes was conducted in the native language of the pupils- Polish, and was divided into three parts. In the first part, the girls were supposed to describe their appearance, and write down their likes and dislikes of their bodies on the separate piece of paper. Then, they swapped the papers and comment the appearances of each other.

The results of the first part are the following: - the negative traits dominated in the descriptions - everybody noticed only their faults and dysfunctions - the comments of the other pupils differed from the original descriptions, and contained a lot of positive traits - negative traits were perceived as positive for the observers - positive traits were sometimes shocking for some described

In the second part, the pupils were to prepare the PowerPoint presentations. The topics were: 1) „Different aspects of human’s beauty depending on a country” 2) “Beauty in the eyes of mass media” 3) “What to do to advertise the product and attract the customers ?”

Each presentation was followed by the discussion panel. The results are the following:

- Different countries have their own canon of beauty - Media promotes idealized, imaginary canon of beauty - The producers employ only “beautiful” people to promote their product (“beautiful” in the context of photoshop corrections and improvements)

The third part is concerned to be the most important part. The first task was to find the advantages and disadvantages of likening to the celebrities. Comments (positive) - General attractiveness - Body confidence - Being fit Comments (negative): - Lack of individual style - Lack of creativity - Health problems

The second activity was to summarize the topic and answer the question: „Would you like to be like a person in mass media ?” The majority said NO!

After the analysis our pupils started to notice the positive aspects of their bodies and appreciate their own, individual style. Here are some opinions:

- ,,people think that they are ugly, because of media manipulations” - ,,not everybody must be perfect”; - ,,everyone is beautiful on its own way”; - ,,media falsify everything. The beauty is just the feverish work of make-up specialists and stylists.

- „everyone is inimitable”

In English

The second part of the experiment was conducted in English, during the English lessons. There were two groups taken into consideration, boys and girls seperately. Still, the procedure during the experiment was the same for both.

The first task was to write down the negative and positive traits of students' outlooks, with the main focus on negative sides. Later, they had to exchange their notes with classmates.

Results: female group 1. Negative traits domianted 2. Some girls were too shy to share with the others 3. Girls felt bad with their faults 4. The comments of the other pupils differed from the original descriptions

Results: male group 1. Only individuals noticed their faults 2. After the exchange, boys critized themselves

But, still, the main obstacle was language obstacle. The second task was based on photographs. The English teacher spread photos. There was only one difference. Group of boys was given photos of ugly men. On the other hand, group of girls was given photos of beautiful women. Then, both groups had to create the ideal picture of beauty (boys- man; girls- woman).

The results- female group:

Girls drew a woman looking like a model. The photos provided earlier influenced them subsconciously. 

The results- male group Despite the fact that boys were given only pictures of ugly men, they drew a picture of a handsome, muscular and good-looking one.

The third task for the students was to comment on the prepared posters, and compare them to the descriptions of themselves.

The results- female group 1. Every single girl wanted to be like the woman in the poster 2. The majority noticed more negative traits in themselves than before

Some female comments: "She's very nice and natural, I would like to look like that." "I'm not similar to that woman, because my eyes are smaller, and I don't have beautiful hair" "I don't look like that, because I don't have nice face and mouth. I'd like to have smaller nose"

The results - male group 1. Boys emphasized that they are similar to the man in the poster 2. They suggested that they have to work out in the gym to look perfectly

Some male comments: "I'm similar to the man in the picture, because I also have black eyes and dark hair" "I need to exercise to be so muscular" "Every man must look like a man"

The last activity for the students was to make comments about the topic of the experiment: How media may influence our appearance ?

In fact, both groups reached the same conclusions: media presents the idealistic, imaginary picture of beauty, which we shouldn't follow.

Main summary: Despite the fact that the students, both boys and girls, noticed that they cannot follow the stereotypes and images of beauty provided by media, they subconciously described themselves by comparisons to media silhouettes. "Ideal man" and "ideal woman" in their posters looked like typical male and female promoted by mass media.