One of the things that I find most challenging as a teacher is when, in the middle of class, a kid pipes up and says, “I’m just not good at Math!” I am pretty sure that every teacher of an intermediate classroom has heard it and I am sure many share my frustration from hearing it at that moment.
So, where does this attitude come from? I can tell you almost without fail that every time I hear this phrase come out of the mouth of a student, that by the end of the year I will have one of their parents tell me, “I was no good at Math when I was a kid. I’m still not good at Math. Little Billy is just like me.”
Obviously, little Billy is struggling with the concepts being presented. However, this is also a way that students and parents let themselves off the hook. They could be saying, “I find Math hard, I don’t enjoy it very much, and I don’t want to put in the work.” At least that would be honest. And if we are in the business of being honest, it also gives parents and students a way to protect their own ego in the event that they try hard and fail.
It always amazes me the things that a person can achieve through hard work and dedication; the things that they can achieve if they see struggle as an opportunity for growth instead of an indictment of them as a person. Where would Michael Jordan have been if, after being cut from his tenth grade basketball team he had said, “I’m just not good at basketball.”?
So, please, parents, don’t tell your kids that you weren’t good at Math. Tell them that you believe in them and that they can achieve whatever they put their minds to. Help them to “Be like Mike.”*
*Jordan, not me 🙂