If I Had a Nickel

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Allison Behne

June 7, 2024
Issue: 
#825

If my husband and I had a nickel for every time we've told our children they were capable of doing something, we would be rich. With the steady stream of affirmations and encouragement in dance, volleyball, golf, math, reading, and more, our children know we believe in them. Their response, now that they are older, is “Of course you think that; you’re our parents.” Somehow with age comes the idea that it doesn’t take much to make your parents proud, and if someone other than your parent says something positive to you, it carries more weight. 

I saw this firsthand with my daughter in middle school. Samantha liked volleyball, but was never been motivated to do more than attend the regularly scheduled practices and games. My husband and I were always telling her she had potential and to just keep working. The encouragement was continual, and her work ethic remained the same . . . She put forth just enough effort to get to play. The summer before her 8th grade year, however, there was a shift. After attending a day volleyball camp, a coach at a local community college pulled Samantha aside and told her she had potential and would like to work with her. She went on to tell my daughter she had everything she needed to be successful. I wish I had gotten Samantha’s expression on camera when she relayed this information to us. She smiled ear to ear and was beyond excited. Of course, I gently reminded her that her father and I told her this frequently, and her response was “Yeah, but you’re my parents; you have to think I am good.”

From that moment forward, Samantha stepped up her commitment to the sport. She not only worked one-on-one with this coach, but she even went to the gym outside of practice hours to work on drills on her own. She rose to the expectations that were set for her. This one coach, by taking the time to relay her belief in Samantha, made a huge difference.

As a mother, I couldn’t be more pleased and thankful that someone took the time to invest in her. As a teacher, I am reminded of the importance of empowering our students and communicating expectations. I am also reminded of the influence we have in the lives of our students when they know we truly believe in them. When we notice a class member is thinking like a mathematician or a child’s poem moves us to tears, our paying attention, noticing, and believing in them help to transform their self-identity.

I am reminded of an article i read about a study that highlights the increase in student achievement and positive behavior when teachers strongly believe their students will succeed. This article is a reminder that children have an innate desire to learn and will reach for and exceed expectations when given the opportunity. 

Teachers' Expectations Can Influence How Students Perform by Alix Spiegel


 

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