Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"Try Harder"

In my professional class this morning one of the instructors said something that I just had to take note of. I do not often take notes in this class since we also have readings to do and I get most of my notes from there, but from time to time one of the two instructors will say something that I add to my "Inspiring Things to Remember" section of my notebook. Todays entry reads, "Teach students to do things differently - 'trying harder' doesn't work if what they're doing isn't helping in the first place."

I could not even begin to count the number of times I'd experienced (or overheard) a teacher or parent saying "try harder" when frustration or misunderstanding were involved. It is a simple response when ones initial thought is "he/she has not really put effort into it and just wants an easy way out" but how often is this really the case and what are we taking for granted?

I remember times where I would get so frustrated when I would ask for help spelling a word and the response would be "sound it out" and then "try harder" when I still wasn't sure of my answer. Yes, it would have been just as easy to look it up in a dictionary at this point, but when you are struggling with spelling (and not definitions) this, too, can be a frustrating process. And when I am asking how to spell, I do not need the response to be one that makes me feel worse about one of my weaknesses. I am well aware that spelling is not my strength. Maybe there are ways to look at problems like these differently in order to help a student think about them in an alternative way - one that makes more sense to them.

There are SO many things that I have taken note of throughout the past three weeks. Sometimes it gets overwhelming to think of the number of things that I would like to implement in my own classroom, but I would like to think that many, if not most, of them are accomplishable. Being able to respond to a student's struggles without assuming that their only problem is a lack of effort should be one of those things, but it is going to take some effort to find out what those things might be. So my call to you is this - if you have ever had an experience like this as a student (or a teacher) and can provide insight as to what you liked about what happened or what you think would have helped you, please give me a shout!

Thanks for reading!

-----Amendment to entry, Sept 28, 2008----------

I have since seen this even more because of its application especially to special needs students (mostly those who happen to have a learning disability). This just reiterates the need for teachers (and parents and students) to be sensitive to things that someone is having difficulty with. It is also a reason to know your students well as individuals!

1 comment:

  1. A wonderful point, Heather. At a talk Sean and I went to last year, the speaker also discussed the phrase "Always do your best" that we constantly tell students. Now seriously, how often do we as adults *always* do our best? We'd burn out! At the same time, I think there is value in encouraging students to strive for improvement, but expecting them to always put in 100% effort is unrealistic and unfair.
    Another thing to remember when students are getting frustrated: there is evidence that when you get frustrated your IQ drops 10 points. All those moments when you feel like you're getting stupider, you actually are. That's why it's so important to deal with the frustration, not just push past it.