What Students Believe

I stumbled across this video yesterday. The title caught my eye. The content got me thinking. As teachers, we have a profound impact on what students believe about themselves and the world around them. How seriously we consider this aspect of our role as educators is important to them.

While this talk is not directed at educators, it contains, I think, a lot of important truths for us. What Lauren Weinstein is talking about relates right back to all of the pedagogy we begrudgingly reference in interviews and on papers and discussion forums (please get rid of these!) for our additional qualifications courses. Weinstein succinctly reminds us of what we already know, without all of the jargon.

My exuberance was replaced with timidness.

Lauren Weinstein

As I’m preparing for the upcoming school year, as I’m sure many of you are, I’m thinking about who the students I will teach might be. Without knowing them, I’m pulling from my memory and my imagination. I’m thinking back to all of the students I can remember and what drove them, what inspired them, and what made them an indispensable part of the learning community I facilitated. Then, I start to think about what I could have done differently to engage those who weren’t, inspire those whose candles were melting, and encourage those who stood at the edge of an uplifting precipice.

Listening to Weinstein’s talk, I feel somewhat encouraged. Encouraged not because of what I have accomplished thus far in my career, but because of the potential that exists in the career that lies ahead of me.

Potential is a tenuous thing. Weinstein talks about how a fully grown elephant is unable to break a rope that binds her because of a belief instilled while she was a calf. As educators, we are responsible for helping students navigate the realms that are defined by the radius of the ropes that restrain them. We, too, can be responsible for stringing our students to a post. Furthermore, we are in a position to help students break the bonds that bind them.

My sister and I have always had a fascination with elephants. It may have something to do with our East African roots. In any case, she has adopted one and I have a stunning photo of one by Gregory Colbert (it’s currently hung on the wall of my mother’s study).

When we think about what we can do for our students, we must always be aware that they are still in their youth, something that many of us long for. They are bold. They are fearless. They are innovative.

The world our students inhabit is different from our own. Many of us are now independent of our parents, able to make decisions for ourselves. In our role as teachers, however, we are tasked with making many decisions for our students. We plan their day, the tasks they must complete, the grades they will receive, and whether it’s a good time to need to use the washroom. We take a lot of decision-making power away from our students because of the responsibilities we have to their parents/guardians and to our professional obligations.

Despite this, we need to be aware of the choices we afford our students. We need to be cognizant of the freedoms that lead to resilience. We need to help students believe in themselves, who they are, and what they are capable of. We need to allow students to fail in order for them to be able to believe in their ability to succeed.

The shame of not believing we deserve it.

Lauren Weinstein

We all have insecurities. We all find fault in who we are. We all know what we believe to be true.

Weinstein says that our beliefs affect our perception of the world, which, in turn, impacts our actions, and then become a self-fulfilling prophecy. As educators, we need to work toward ensuring that our students have positive beliefs about who they are and about their world, act appropriately because of these beliefs, and then create a world for themselves that is uplifting, invigorating, progressive, and captivating. 

In order for us to do this, we need to first turn toward ourselves. We need to believe in our ability to teach well, to show up to every day with an honest intention, and to reflect on our accomplishments. While helping students understand the tensile force of their ropes, we, too, must push forward and test our own.

What Students Believe

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