You might think this is an obvious statement, and yet there are many adults who don’t understand what this means. Students who continuously experience failure, day after day, do not know what success “feels” like. And they do not know what to do to turn things around to become successful, if they haven’t experienced success!
Sounds like we are going around in circles here! The thing is, in order for a student to begin to experience success, someone must coach that student toward success.
How do you coach someone toward success? Well, it’s not by saying things like:
- you’d better shape up or you won’t get anywhere
- forget about riding lessons until you’re getting good grades in math
- you have to care about your work and try harder
Try harder…those dreaded words. What exactly does it mean to try harder? One student put it this way: “I spend hours on my homework and work late into the night, I’m trying as hard as I can, and I’m failing. What else am I supposed to do? My teachers just say I’m not trying – they don’t know anything about how hard I’m trying!”
The key is to begin where the student is in a particular skill or subject. If a student does not know how to write a paragraph according to the teacher’s definition, then no matter “how hard he tries” he won’t be able to do it. And if that same student is expected to write reports in all classes and is graded on his writing, then you can see that he can never be successful in any class.
But if that same student is allowed to make a video, or a poster, or do a verbal presentation to show what he knows in history or science, now he has a chance to be successful in something, and that experience will inspire and motivate him to succeed at other things, instead of giving up.
This is just one example. Students who have trouble reading can learn subjects through movies and audiotapes, while they are working on increasing reading skills. Students
who are working on skills such as reading, writing, spelling, or math, need to have the lessons customized to work for them, so they can experience small successes that will later lead to big successes.
The more we work with kids’ learning needs and developmental levels, the more successful they will be.