This story by teacher Jennifer McDaniel is a great read for anyone aspiring to be an educator or mentor. McDaniel says that when she began to rock climb, even though she wanted to reach the top of the wall, and she listened to her instructor’s directions, it was very difficult for her to succeed in scaling the wall. Although she was listening very closely and trying her hardest, she kept making mistakes, which in turn made her instructor frustrated and impatient. The experience made her realize how important it was to have teachers who believed in their students and didn’t assume that struggling students were just apathetic and disengaged.
When [the instructor] corrected me in a tone that barely disguised his opinion that I was a hopeless case, I truly knew what it must feel like to be one of my students. I understood what a tremendous act of will it is to continue to try when even your teacher has lost faith in you.
I think this is a trap that many of those for whom school came easy fall into; I am certainly guilty of it. It’s easy to blame low grades on a lack of effort and low motivation, and while that may be the case with some students, that blanket assumption is a surefire way to suck the desire to learn right out of some kids. In McDaniel’s experience, as well as my own, approaching those students with patience, empathy, and understanding is a much more effective way to encourage success.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Motivation Matters blog.