Module Four: Strengths and Weaknesses

  1. Learn a definition of "identity" and "identity crisis."
  2. Understand the role of identity in the development of healthy self-esteem.
  3. Raise awareness of personal strengths and weaknesses.


Erickson described an identity crisis as "the condition of being uncertain of one's feelings about oneself, especially with regard to character, goals, origin." Conversely, we might say we have a firm grip on our identity, when we are certain about our feelings about ourselves, especially with regard to character, goals and origins. Implicit in identity is the notion that our beliefs about ourselves are grounded in reality. It is easy for us to deceive ourselves. Below are two exercises designed to assist in clarifying identity.

Heroes and Heroines   

To complete this exercise, get a piece of paper and a pencil. Then, work through the following steps, completing each step before moving on.

  1. Make a list of 10 personal heroes or heroines. A hero or heroine is anyone who has inspired you or someone you have wanted to be like. Many people might fit this category. They may be heroes from your childhood or adulthood. They may be living or dead, real or fictional. They may be people you knew personally or never met. A sample list could be: Eleanor Roosevelt; Barbara Jordon; John Lennon; Maureen Wallace (third grade teacher); John Holt; Leonardo de Vinci; Charles Darwin; Abraham Lincoln; Gloria Steinem; Larry O'Bryant (principal).

  2. Next to each person's name on your list, briefly describe the quality or characteristic of that person that made you put them on your list.

  3. We identify with other people, and the ones we most admire shape, as well as reflect, our identities. People with healthy self-esteem can own or claim their qualities, as well as their weaknesses. It takes strength and courage for us to acknowledge shortcomings, yet often it is even harder to accept our qualities.

    Write 10 sentences in which you claim the same quality or attribute you admire in your heroes and heroines. Make each sentence begin with the words, "I am," and then complete it. Using the list of names above as an example, the sentences might turn into this:

    • I am a humanitarian.
    • I am a voice of the people.
    • I am a creative wizard.
    • I am loving and kind.
    • I am a great writer and educator.
    • I believe people are equal.
    • I am there for you when you fall.
  4. Read each sentence out loud. Probably this is best done alone. Notice your thoughts and feelings as you read.

Reflect on the exercise and consider this: What barriers did you encounter? Is it easier to claim our shortcomings than to own up to our qualities?

Self-Assessment and the Johari Window 

Some of you may recall the concept of the Johari Window, conceived by two fellows named Joe and Harry. The Johari Window is illustrated by a square (window) divided into 4 parts, each representing an element of self-awareness. One box represents private aspects of self not known by others. Another box in the window represents elements known both to self and others. The third box contains those things about us that are known by others but unknown to us, and the fourth box represents parts of our self that are unknown to both the self and others.

This next exercise will assist you in becoming more aware of your strengths and weaknesses.

  1. Make a list of the 5 most important qualities or characteristics of an outstanding teacher.
  2. Think about yourself objectively, and write a brief assessment of yourself for each characteristic. Is this a strength or weakness? Do not be too critical or too modest. Be realistic. Be honest and brief.
  3. One of the main objectives of this course is to raise self-awareness. In step 1, you identified qualities, and in step 2, you assessed yourself. In this step, you will get feedback.

    Find two people to give you feedback. Choose people you know and trust, who will be honest with you. Ask for feedback on each of the five characteristics you identified in step 1.

  4. Reflect on these questions: Who gave you feedback? What happened? Were they honest? If not, why not? How did you feel going through this process?

Assignments for Module Four

  1. Forum Assignment:Write a reflection describing your experience, thoughts, and feelings as you worked through the Identity exercises in the Module 4 course materials. Recall the questions you considered. How did the Heroes and Heroines exercise and the Self-Assessment exercises increase your self-awareness of your strengths and weaknesses?

    Post your response on the FORUM into the Module 4 Self-Assessment thread. Do NOT start a new thread! Please click the Module 4 Self-Assessment thread and then post your assignment. Dialogue with your colleagues. (Respond to minimum of one other student postings.)

  2. Reflection Assignment: Read Chapter 4 in the textbook and the supplemental information provided with this module. Write an informal one-half to one page reflection on Chapter 4 and the course material provided for Module 4, focusing on what you learned and how you might apply what you learned. Rather than summarizing the reading, discuss new ideas and significant insights and how you might apply them to enhancing your own self-esteem, the self-esteem of the students in your classroom, or the esteem of your own children.

    Please type this Reflection Assignment single spaced with an extra line between paragraphs. Again, you are encouraged to write your reflection in a word processor, such as Word. Be sure to save often. Then, use the "Copy" and "Paste" commands under the Edit menu to copy your reflection into the body of an e-mail message. Send this to your instructor by email on or before midnight of the module's due date. Type, Module 4 Reflection, in the subject line of your e-mail message. Please do not send your reflection as an attachment, and do NOT post your reflection on the Forum. You should keep a copy of your Reflection Assignment, at least until you receive a response from the instructor to ensure that it was received.

  3. Web Site Assignment: Review online at least one of the Must See links provided throughout the Module 4 course materials. Write a brief (25-50 word) review of your chosen Web site article by responding to this question: What did you learn/relearn from the article that was most significant to the assessment and/or enhancement of your self-esteem, the self-esteem or your classroom, or your own children's esteem?

    Please type your review with the heading Web Site Review at the bottom of the same email that you submit to your instructor with your Reflection Assignment (see #2 above).

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