Monday, December 18, 2017

Teach 180: You Can Lead a Horse to Water (Day 72)

At the beginning of the year, I had a sense of which students would struggle for me in my classes.  Some teachers had used the words "lazy and arrogant" to describe some of the students I have this year.  However, I was seeing the students differently.  There is one student in particular.  I had a conversation with him on the second day of school at opening channel.  We talked about which colleges he was applying to and what his future aspirations were.  As I talked to the student, the description of "lazy" did not once cross my mind. 

Several weeks passed and I noticed that he was not doing his homework sufficiently and this led to low test grades.  Something that this student seemed to expect.  However, I noticed that he knew answers to questions when I called on him in class and he wass using vocabulary correctly to describe concepts.  He was able to answer "why?" and "how do you know?" questions.  

It is at this point that I pulled him aside and told him that I thought he was capable and could do well.  It was a matter of him believing it.  It didn't matter how much I believed it.  It was up to him to believe that he was capable of doing well in math class.  Part of getting good at something is consistent practice.  Not only doing the work when you feel like it, but working each day and gradually you get better.  Bringing up a low grade in the class will not happen overnight, but with consistent effort it will happen.

On Friday, the student met with me before school to review for his test.  His test was first period.  At the end of the day, he stopped by to see me to see if I had his test graded.  I did not, but I did grade it later that afternoon and emailed him the good news about his test grade.  His hard work was paying off!  

The saying of "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink" is definitely true.  There are times when I have worked hard to get students to understand concepts, but ultimately it is the decision of the student (especially when the student is in high school) to learn.  The student needs to have a growth mindset and believe that they are capable.  They have to understand that failures show areas where growth is needed and that a failure is not a reflection on their self-worth.  I hope that this student continues to recognize that it is his effort, his daily effort, that is leading to his success. 

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