Maths was one of those subjects that I was not particularly fond of, but didn’t dislike either. Perhaps I favoured Geometry much more and Algebra less. I was pretty good at it. Or so I thought.
I was a freshman in high school and had a new maths teacher who was constantly challenging us with interesting stuff and I liked that. Until we had our first major test and…I did not do well at all. I was a bit disappointed when I got my paper back but thought that next time I should try a bit harder and check where my weaknesses were. What totally shot me down was my teacher’s comment after class. “Well”, he said, “you saw your test result. We are not all mathematical geniuses and you are well…more of a language person and I don’t think you’ll ever be good at maths, like some other kids. That’s life.”
With this short comment, this person completely shot down my interest in the subject and more importantly, my self-esteem. He did not even sit with me for one minute to explain where I had not done well, what could have been the cause and so on. His comment just translated for me that no matter how hard I tried, I was going to achieve nothing.
Of course after I graduated and became a teacher, some of my students had this same teacher who did it to some of them as well. It made me wonder: this person was working in schools, with kids who had dreams, thinking he was teaching (well he may have given them his knowledge daily in class), but was he missing the point or what: kids are going to fail for some reason or another. Perhaps they do not study as much. Perhaps it was a bad day – they might be students whose stress takes over them and who can perform well in those circumstances? Maybe they have a learning disability which hinders them from performing as well as they would like to and with some help could do wonders.
What students need is constant encouragement and motivation. Does a failure define them as personalities or the rest of their lives? We should see it as an opportunity to teach them much more than the subject itself.
I have written about this before in a post on Goal Number Two. There you can read about one of my students I had in Greece who is really brave and faced his failure by trying even harder, even though he was disappointed at first.
I am positive and confident there are a lot of educators who constantly encourage their students and help them overcome failures. Congratulations to all of you and keep up the excellent work!