It doesn’t get much better than witnessing the eureka moment of a student who is so fixated on an inability to succeed in a given subject but then finally grasps the concept. Better, of course, is knowing that it was a direct consequence of your teaching…
I am a massive fan of Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset. Instead of complimenting intelligence which aligns success with intellect and comparatively associates failure with stupidity, one should focus on the efforts put in to encourage progression. Mistakes, according to Dweck, are not synonymous with failure, they are instead evidence that one is trying to improve, regardless of ability level.
Being faced with a child that pleads, ‘I cannot do that, I have never been able to and never will,’ is unfortunately something a teacher is faced with on a daily basis. Instead of acknowledging a child’s weakness and further fuelling their fixed negative thoughts, one should focus on the strengths he or she exhibits and use this to shape the explanation of a given topic.
During tutor time at my Placement A school, it is now compulsory to dedicate sessions to numeracy and literacy. In a room filled with mixed ability students, this soon becomes a nightmare for those convinced of their own failure and surrounded by peers boasting, ‘This is so easy!’
When faced with two boys who literally threw their hands in the air in despair and placed their heads on the table, reluctant to participate, I took it upon myself to help them to overcome their fear of failure.
With positive encouragement, verbal support and varied worked examples, not only did these boys eventually grasp the concept of percentages and fractions, they were gladly nominated to be the experts and teach their peers. The glint of self-satisfaction and pride in their eyes is enough evidence for the power of positivity, the importance of celebrating differences and the emphasis on varying the ways in which something is taught. This eureka moment should be an expectation for all, not a privilege for some.
Megan Hall – MFL
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