Sunday, September 21, 2008

Are We Training Them To Think Of Themselves as Failures?


Mary is taking geometry this term. She is in a class for kids that have failed before. Math is not a subject she likes, or does well in. She was not happy with Friday's test and wrote "I am a failure" on the top of her exam.

Today's students are tested over and over again. They are made to feel worthless when their scores are not high. Failing a test is not the same as being a failure. This is something we must teach our students.

Mary did not fail this test, although she only squeaked by with a 66. I called her the second I finished marking it to tell her the good news. I could almost see her smile through the phone and I will never forget her words "Thank you for your encouragement and for believing in me. It means a lot to me."

6 comments:

NYC Educator said...

You should tell them to pay more attention to Joel Klein, who thinks only teachers can be failures.

Chaz said...

You are my kind of teacher. However, I have had a principal question me why I push the female students to do better in science. Get where this person is coming from?

In other words, no good deed goes unpunished.

Ms. Tsouris said...

I hope Mary can have you all year so she will be in your sphere of positive influence and encouragement. Just because they're older doesn't mean they don't need continuing nurturing and support. Some never had it to begin with. Obviously the "self esteem" era is over to be replaced by relentless testing and another opportunity for students like Mary to feel as she does. We must keep reminding these kids, as your words and actions reminded Mary, that being a failure as a person is a far cry from failing a test.

The Bus Driver said...

Encouragement can go a long way! Who knows... Mary might come back a successfull physicist one day. Honestly... She's not the only one who didn't "get" Geometry the first round... I've been in the same boat. Failed my first half of the year in Geometry. (yeah D.. isnt quite failing but it was failing according to my parents) And I'm none the worse for the wear. I'm glad you offered Mary some encouragement.

Schoolgal said...

I know your phone call meant a lot to her. She is obviously crying out for help. But with the crazy policies in your school, they will probably put her in advanced calculus next year.

loonyhiker said...

I had all of my students write "I am a Born Winner" on their papers they turned in or I wouldn't accept it. I hoped it was a way to change their mindset. 16 yrs. later, a former student says she still remembers that it and helps get her through tough times.