I Don’t Want to Brag

Outstanding EvaluationWe were in the middle of a student-led conference, looking over the 8th grader’s self-evaluation, when I asked the toughest question of all:  “What do you think you’re doing well?”  The student froze in anxiety and stammered, “Um, I dunno.  Like, turning in my work, I guess?  I’m not sure, really. . .”  

Here was a student who had many A’s on her report card and high marks in behavior, yet she panicked when asked to say something nice about herself.  This scenario was repeated several times at other conferences, so I asked my 8th graders why it was such a hard to question to answer.

“We don’t want to sound like we’re bragging on ourselves” was the reply.  I tried to explain that being honest about your abilities and accomplishments wasn’t the same as acting superior to your classmates or putting someone else down.  They weren’t convinced.  It’s the same problem they have when they’re paid a compliment.  “It’s so awkward,” they say.  “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.”  When I tell them they just need to thank the speaker, they complain, “But then it’s like I’m agreeing, like I’m saying, ‘Yeah, I know.  I am that good.'”

When you say something nice to teens, or you speak well of them in their hearing, don’t be surprised if their response is less than gracious – if, for example, they shrug or downplay it.  I sometimes supply them with the correct answer – “Just say, ‘Thanks, Mrs. Acuna'” – to let them off the hook.  

To which they’ll (un)graciously reply, “Thanks. . .I guess?”




  1. I, too, have been guilty of not accepting compliments graciously. Sometimes though, when I reflect on my hesitancy to do so, I realize that pride of self really is at the root of it.
    I like the simple words of acceptance you supply your students. They can bear witness to a heart attitude that says, “To You be the glory, Lord! Thank You for gifting me that way.”

  2. “You’re welcome.” Those are words that took me years to say instead of “Thank you” back to a “Thank you.” Today I get my self-worth from the love of God. If I, along with the rest of humanity, am important enough for God to give His best for me, then I must have tremendous value. At the same time, we are to be humble. The scripture, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” comes to mind. On the sanctification road, I think we are never perfectly balanced in this area. I like what Karen has said above and it is the same thing I would share with kids if I went back to teaching in a Christian setting: ““To You be the glory, Lord! Thank You for gifting me that way.”

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