If you believe you can, you probably will. If you believe you can't, you probably won't.
If you believe students can, they probably will. If you believe students can't, they probably won't.
Believing in someone is extremely powerful. Believing in someone can inspire him/her and also motivate oneself to do great things. We all know this from experience...when someone believed in us and when we believed in someone.
When I pose a challenge for a student, I pose it believing the student is capable of accomplishing it and reaching a certain level of proficiency. I work hard to ensure the student is successful in meeting this expectation. This may include providing encouragement, offering smaller prompts, redirecting, spending extra time working with the student and most importantly, not letting the student off the hook when he/she is capable of better.
When students know their teacher believes in them and is willing to takes the steps to ensure they reach their potential, they do their utmost not to disappoint that teacher. Students also begin to believe in themselves and their abilities. It is this internal belief and self-confidence that leads to resilience when they experience challenges and setbacks.
For those of you who have experience coaching kids, I'm sure you can draw from some of your experiences when you led a group of kids to an accomplishment that very few others believed they were capable of. Why were they able to rise above other people's expectations? They most likely reached the level they did because you believed in them, instilled confidence in them, challenged them and worked with them. So despite the fact that people around them may have been doubting their chances, you demonstrated your belief in them and in return they believed in you and believed they could.
I reflect on my experiences coaching basketball, softball and soccer to both boys and girls of many different ages. In all of the cases where we accomplished more than others thought we would, it was because we believed in ourselves. Whether it was rising to the challenge and defeating a team that we had lost to many times that year, playing without a key injured player or simply hanging in and competing when others gave us no chance, these were some of the most rewarding and gratifying experiences as a coach.
I also recall a memorable experience when I taught a very reluctant learner who, after years of negative experiences at school, saw himself as having little chance of success in my Science class. I remember thinking to myself, somehow I have to keep him interested, hopeful and gradually build his self-confidence. In one of the first conversations I had with this student that year, I told him 'You are going be successful in this class this year'. He was surprised to hear this, probably because for the first time one of his teachers had said this to him. As the year progressed it was obvious that the class was challenging for him. He experienced moments when, just as he had done in the past, he was ready to give up. The most powerful thing I did was to tell him that we weren't going to focus on his marks, rather we were going to focus on him improving each day. We spent many mornings, lunchtimes and afterschools working together. He would explain concepts to me while I constantly assessed his progress. I did my best to fill the gaps in his learning by explaining concepts differently and a little more slowly. We constantly reviewed, I would re-teach and he would re-learn. Somedays I was so encouraged by the progress he was making and other times I was frustrated at the fact he couldn't seem to grasp a concept. But, as long as I demonstrated to him that I believed in his ability to learn, he continued to put in the effort. Although I can't claim that he ever became extremely proficient in Science, I can say that he successfully completed the course and easily surpassed his original goal of 'passing'. More importantly, this accomplishment boosted his self-confidence and he became a more committed, more determined and more resilient learner. This once reluctant learner went on to have considerably more success throughout high school and continued on to pursue a post-secondary education.
As I head back to school in January I am making a point of not just saying to students that I believe in them, but demonstrating it to them. I encourage you to do the same!