Throughout the halls of the Leroy H. Smith School in Winterport, strategically placed mirrors show more than reflections to students as they walk past.
Special messages are posted next to the mirrors that are intended to encourage and cheer the pre-kindergarten through fourth-grade students who attend the elementary school. Around the corner from a classroom, or across from the cafeteria, students can catch glimpses of themselves in mirrors with the frames spray-painted in eye-catching primary colors and then read words such as “I matter,” “I can make good choices,” “I make a difference” and “I am beautiful.”
Dawn Moore, school principal, said a teacher had seen the idea of positive self-talk mirrors on Facebook and brought it to her attention. Together, they decided it would benefit their school, too.
“We’re always trying to find ways to build our students’ self-esteem, and we know 5- to 10-year-olds love to look at themselves in the mirror,” she said. “The first day we had the mirrors up, we had a student who was feeling down about herself. The teacher pulled her out in the hallway and had her read it. It said, ‘I am beautiful.’ The student read it, and she looked at her teacher, and said, ‘You and Mrs. Moore think I am beautiful?’ It was very touching.”
The mirrors started to appear around the school about three weeks ago. Students were initially perplexed and then pleased at the mirrors and their messages.
“I was kind of confused at first,” Hannah Spahr, 10, of Winterport said. “What are all these mirrors for? Now I think it’s really cool.”
One mirror message that particularly spoke to her is “You are welcome here.”
“It just makes you feel more accepted,” she said. “You’re looking at yourself in a mirror, and you instantly feel better.”
Her classmate, Connor Sibley, 9, of Winterport, also didn’t understand why his school was suddenly full of mirrors. He thought maybe the kids were being encouraged to make sure their hair was combed. But then he noticed the words underneath and figured it out.
“The school’s pretty cool,” he said. “And the mirrors make people even nicer.”
Other mirrors around the school feature messages such as “I respect myself,” “mistakes help me improve,” “I am a learner,” “my ideas are worthwhile,” “my brain is growing” and “I am proud to be me.” There are about 20 mirrors posted at the time of publication, with more added whenever someone in the school community finds another mirror for the collection. Combining words with mirrors may seem like a simple thing to do, Moore said, but the underlying hope is a little more complicated.
“We teach habits of mind — things like persistence, resilience and controlling impulsivity,” Moore said. “And the mirrors are a reminder to kids to believe in themselves.”
During the first week, teachers and staff noticed that the students found the mirrors very entertaining, but now they are noticing something else is happening.
“We’re now finding they’ll sneak around the corner and read it,” Moore said “We’re enjoying watching them build their own self-esteem. And it’s amazing how, just hearing themselves say it, they can believe it.”
Follow the Bangor Daily News on Facebook for the latest Maine news.