Role of self-belief in academic success: Max’s triumph
Max had dreamed of going to college ever since his father told him, “Everyone in our family goes to college.” Max related well to people. They trusted him. He had a head for business. His manner inspired confidence. Max wanted to major in business. But, in order to be admitted to business college, he needed to pass a statistics class.
Max began to have problems in math in first grade. His parents sat up with him night after night as he struggled with his homework. One day when Max was in third grade he screamed and tore up his math homework, refusing to go to school until he knew all the multiplication facts. His father yelled. His mother cried.
In sixth grade Max couldn’t make sense of factor trees. He couldn’t figure out how to solve equations. His parents found a tutor who came to the house twice a week. Max did a little better the second semester. He got a C, although the F he received the first semester embarrassed him so much he never told any of his friends.
By sixth grade, Max “knew for certain” he was a math dummy. He dreaded math class. Every time the teacher called on him, his heart raced. He couldn’t think. He stalled for time. He blinked back the tears. He told himself it would be over soon.
Then algebra class! The teacher expected him to have all the math facts memorized. She expected him to understand factor trees. She expected him to solve equations. Max hated school.
“Terrorized” by math all through school, Max believed he would never be successful in any math class. Therefore, he “just knew” he couldn’t pass the statistics class and Max “just knew” that he would never be admitted to the business program that was his dream.
In this area of his academic life, Max had lost sight of his power to achieve. He had relinquished his creative spark and had replaced it with despair and expectations of failure. He had believed in math failure for so long that it had become his reality.
An Effective Educational Perspective
When Max and I began working together, I explained to him that he was intelligent but that somewhere along the way he began to believe in limitations and had stopped trusting his natural intellect and gifts. He had come to believe that he couldn’t learn. I encouraged him to trust in his great talents and to let me create for him a program of study and learning that maximized his brain’s ability to understand and remember information. He had the natural gifts to succeed, and with the right kind of practice and encouragement, he could be a star at math!
When Max achieved an A in the statistics class and was accepted to the business program, his comment to me was, “Math has long been a sore spot for me academically and I think finally changed the tides!” Several months after starting his business classes, I heard from him that he was getting the highest grades in his class!
Unfortunately, Max suffered with self-doubts all through school. He lived with the “knowledge” that he was a math dummy. His doubts about his intelligence seeped into other aspects of his life. He didn’t always trust his own judgment. He relied more on the opinions of others than he did on his own beliefs and desires. If Max had received more guidance in developing a self-empowering perspective earlier in life, he would have had more faith in his ability to succeed and would have more academic successes to look back on.
Facilitating Academic Success
Parents and educational professionals can open the door to a student’s belief in self-empowerment. Empowered students believe in their ability to succeed. They understand the degree of control they have in their educational experience. They see themselves as the most important factor in their own success. They know they are destined to achieve their dreams.
Not until students believe in success will success be an achievable reality. As a student mobilizes his or her belief system to make academic success a habit of belief, emotional barriers and learned helplessness melt away. Students find joy in academics. They learn to approach challenging tasks with a renewed sense of belief and confidence that ignites the energy they need to be academic stars.
One of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child is to view him or her as a strong student. Find every opportunity to notice your child’s academic strengths. As your happy thoughts, pleased gazes and complimentary words reflect back to your child the qualities he or she wishes to develop, they will begin to flower.
Talk with your child about his innate intelligence and skills. Express your belief in his abilities and his let him know you are confident he can learn anything and everything he wants to learn! Let him know how proud you are of him and his unique talents. Help him get in touch with his gifts and be clear with him that he can become skillful in any and every area he chooses.
Direct attention toward a child’s academic problem only long enough to find a solution. Then turn your undivided attention to that solution. See each student as a successful and confident star. Holding the view of students as powerful achievers is the key to their self-transformation.
Resist the urge to notice problems and deficiencies because your child will be encouraged to “know” that he or she is “stupid.” Help your child believe in success and you will keep your child on the path toward self-esteem and achievement in all endeavors.