By: Sean Massa
When I was a student in junior high school, I started to notice a number of interesting changes. We had many classes, instructors, and subjects instead of just the same one all day. We had more responsibilities to get our books and more freedom to choose our classes. But the most peculiar trend I think, now that I look back on it, was this: at some point students began to distance themselves from their teachers.
After the end of each class, I noticed many students would immediately go leave the class to meet their friends or to finish their work. Granted, sometimes people would leave in a rush to their next class (and that's fine). What I now notice looking back is this curious drama that unfolded of student-teacher relations: that once class started, students would engage the teacher, but once it finished so would those engagements.
I do not think this is a good way to go about making the most of one's education. Some of the richest and thought-provoking conversations I had while in junior high and high school actually came when I decided to stay in the classroom after all the students left. I would sometimes approach the teacher directly, or stay and help put away books or throw away trash left out by others. It was in those extra 5 or 10 or 30 minutes that I would talk to the teacher. I would talk to them about their views on the topic for the day. I would ask those questions I held inside of me that I was too nervous in class because they seemed too “dumb” (newsflash: no question is too dumb to ask in a classroom, if it's relevant). I highly recommend students start to take the leap and form these friendships with their teachers, and here is why:
1) They are human beings.
2)They used to be students
3) They have rich experiences and opinions
4) They want to help you - That's their job
5) They can be your lifelong friends/mentors.
Stay after class
Go to office hours
Do your research (CV/resume)
Ryan was afraid to be wrong.
One of the largest challenges of my student, Ryan, was not how to solve reading comprehension, but being able to admit that he didn’t understand the process of solving it. “Ryan, the detail from the context is located in line 46. Do you understand why?” “Oh yeah, yes, I do.” “Then how do we find it?” “Well, because…” Ryan would then wait for me to re read the question, explain the process, and reinforce the answer. However, he wasn’t improving. I realized that in order for him to improve, he first needed to understand that it is “OK” to be wrong.
It wasn’t easy, but were able to change his mentality from, “what will people think of me if I show that I don’t know” to “there’s a missing step in the staircase; how can I build a new step so that I can climb higher.”
He was now learning faster than ever. His confidence in being wrong sparked his curiosity and motivation to be right. As an instructor I was able to more accurately pinpoint why he was not understanding a step in a process and implement the proper strategy to help him learn and retain that step. It was crazy to see how changing one detail of his mentality could make such a huge difference in his learning.
I’ve noticed that many students feel less inclined to ask a question or make a statement if they know that there is a risk of being wrong.
“Our educational system is rooted in the construct of right and wrong. We are rewarded for what are deemed to be correct answers and the ensuing higher grades, which generally lead to more successful lives. Being right affirms and inflates our sense of self-worth. As students we learn to avoid as best we can the embarrassment of being wrong. Getting the right answer becomes the primary purpose of our education. Isn't it regrettable that this may be inconsistent with actually learning?”
Being right inflates our sense of self-worth, but being wrong gives us the opportunity to actually build our self-worth.
Self-worth is your sense of your own value or worth as a person; self-esteem; self-respect. In order to increase our self-esteem and self respect, we must first increase our own value and worth.
“Righting” your “wrongs”: The easiest way to build your educational value and worth.
The smartest students are the ones who are not afraid to be wrong and learn from their mistakes. Being smart doesn’t mean having a larger mental capacity than the next student, it means building your knowledge and skills that you lacked before. Ryan was able to build his sense of self-worth by learning how to use what he didn’t know as an opportunity to build his knowledge base. He unknowingly was building his academic self-esteem at the same time.
Every student has the ability to perform at a high level. At Hillview Prep we strive to find what makes a student learn faster, whether it be complex or as simple and empowering Ryan to know that being wrong is Ok.
To learn more about Hillview Prep and how we can help you or your student, visit www.hillviewprep.com or contact us to learn more!