FIVE TIPS FOR TURNING YOUR STUDENT'S STRESS INTO SUCCESS
In my last blog, I shared how students' internal stress to do well in school, and external pressure to perform, are bad for learning. Now, let me tell you why.
Stress and pressure trigger the brain's fight, flight or freeze mode, shutting down the ability to learn new material. Unfortunately, once younger students believe they can't cut it in school, especially while surrounded by classmates who can, their sense of self worth can easily go from bad to worse. Without intervention and support, this attitude can become ingrained affecting the academic and career choices they make over their lifetime.
In my 20 years as a full-time teacher, and the past five as a substitute, I've been observing a 3rd source of pressure that stems from schools and colleges. A few examples include:
•class sizes have gotten larger, and include a wider range of student abilities, meaning lessons are often directed toward the average student, which leaves struggling students without enough support;
•standardized exams are being administered at each grade level, and student scores are often tied to a teacher's' annual performance reviews;
•college admission committees are placing an increasing emphasis on applicants' service, extracurricular, leadership, and work activities
•quality universities are expecting higher scores on standardized college admission exams in order for admitted students to qualify for academic merit scholarships. This is due in part to high school grade inflation, underachieving students being passed on to the next grade, and fewer scholarship dollars available to award.
So, circling back to today's topic, how can YOU create a supportive and encouraging environment that will help turn your students' stress into success?
1.) Accept that each student has natural strengths and weaknesses in all areas of life, including school.
Some may be math wizards, but have problems spelling; while others might find learning foreign languages a breeze, but science a tornado. Reinforce the positive by offering praise, and expressing your appreciation of their skills and strengths - which could even be non-academic in nature. Then provide supportive resources to develop growth in the weaker areas.
2.) If you don't already know what your student's natural learning style is, have it tested.
There are four primary learning styles: visual (by seeing), auditory (by hearing), tactile (by touching), and kinesthetic (by doing or moving). If lessons are being taught using only one learning style; and it's NOT the one that's your student's strong suit, having a tutor who can explain the material in the style that IS, can open up new opportunities for understanding.
3.) Learning how to learn is... well... vital to learning.
There are several proven tools and techniques to give students the edge by helping them understand, memorize, and apply new material, as well as organize homework and manage deadlines. For example, at Penrose, we find that reading comprehension is fundamental to be successful in any subject. When a topic is especially intimidating, the additional support of a tutor to coach effective study skills can help get students over the hurdle and frustration of not understanding the material.
4.) If students already knew it, they would be teaching it - not learning it.
Generally speaking, for any particular class, students receive textbook reading assignments and classroom instruction; and they submit graded work, such as homework, quizzes, tests, projects, and the like. So, when there are a lot of graded homework and quizzes required, each is worth a small amount of the total course grade.
Even though getting a D or an F on a homework assignment or quiz is discouraging - as they say, don't sweat the small stuff. It only means your student doesn't have a complete grasp of the material... yet. Sometimes, asking the teacher why an answer was wrong can be intimidating, or could even be perceived as being challenged, in which case a tutor serves as the perfect neutral source of support.
The most important next steps are to review the topic from the course material, complete similar questions or problems from the textbook, and rework every incorrect answer from scratch. Getting a firm understanding of why an answer was wrong will boost your student's confidence and prevent repeating the same mistake on an exam, which will carry more weight in the overall course grade.
5.) Reinforce your student's ability to persevere by encouraging them to post inspirational and motivational quotes around their study area, or even on the bathroom mirror.
These positive messages really can overcome a defeatist attitude, which is half the battle. Here are a few examples:
"Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." ~Christopher Robin to Pooh, A.A. Milne
"A bend in the road is not the end of the road... Unless you fail to make the turn." ~Helen Keller
"Success seems to be connected to action. Successful people keep on moving. They make mistakes, but they don't quit." ~Conrad Hilton
"Strength doesn't come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming things you once thought you couldn't." ~Rikki Rogers
"Challenges are what make life interesting. Overcoming them is what makes life meaningful." ~Joshua J. Marin
Because, as Principal El shared, "The best thing we can do for kids.. instead of teaching them to be successful...teach them how to respond when they are not successful!"
And at Penrose, that's our mission.