Boasting is by no means solely an educational phenomenon: we are all guilty of occasional self-aggrandisement. Yet it is particularly important to tackle bragging in schools, according to a teacher writing in the 27 March issue of TES.
Chris Curtis, a teacher at a secondary school in Derbyshire, says taking on the boasters is crucial, as the atmosphere and learning culture in lessons starts and ends with the teacher.
“If we tolerate comments that make others feel humiliated, we’re culpable,” he argues.
But tackling boasting is tough: it requires a teacher to have a number of strategies in their locker. Here's a taster of the ones Curtis recommends.
1. Inject a little humility
This tactic works best in a one-to-one scenario. Explain to the child how their comments can negatively affect others in the class. Relate the feelings of their peers to how that individual felt before their recent success.
2. Encourage ‘humblebrags’
It’s hard to stand out when everyone is boasting. Get each student to talk about an aspect of their work they’re really pleased about. The power of bragging is now extended to everyone, giving humble, quiet students a chance to shine.
3. Empower experts
If a student wants to show off, give them the opportunity to do so. One of my students boasted that they always got full marks on spelling tests, so I made them my spelling expert. Now, if we need a tricky word spelled, they are the go-to person. This panders to a student’s need for recognition but also challenges them: “Go on, if you think you’re that good, prove yourself.”
4. Laugh it off
Humour is a great way to take the sting out of boasting and to show that it isn’t a big deal. For example, when a student informs me that their parents drive a “considerably better” car than mine, I simply reply: “The only thing about that statement that would impress me is if they let you drive it.” In this way, I model a response that students can use for themselves.