You Don’t Have to be a Genius to Try Your Best


Yesterday, I shared the words of one of my students who, fed up with the impenetrable fortress that is grade level test practice, decided our tasks were not worth even the slightest effort, nor was it worthwhile to consider the tips I shared in order to help make the extremely difficult job a little bit easier. “I’m not a genius like the rest of them,” he angrily announced.

Today, this attitude carried into math. I tried to head off the doubt by pointing out that this was math every third grader was doing and that there’s no reason to say the math is as hard as the reading, especially when you, a capable math student, says it.

I couldn’t dwell on this student’s negativity for long. I had an entire class working hard – even the two that are typically the most disengaged students I have known in my career – and needed to focus on all of them.

In doing so, I yet again took note that some of the poorest math students were working the most determinedly, without giving up or making excuses. They were trying their damnedest and as they worked, they were even starting to get it. It made me appreciate the difference between frustration that leads to giving up and frustration with the belief that working hard will make a difference.

I have students who are quite aware of their shortcomings and who keep a smile on their face regardless. They try their hardest, which is often the most rewarding thing I witness. It is, then, extremely disheartening to see a student not even try in the least, and instead label himself a failure without even a slight attempt.

I admit, I am losing my patience over this. Test prep is arduous for my students, but by and large, they’re doing their work and trying their best. It is insanely frustrating when a smart kid resigns himself to failure and anger instead of appreciating his unique needs and abilities and allowing me to work with him to meet his potential.

I only hope that he internalizes my continued attempts to buoy him. The sand continues to pour through the hourglass that represents the window of this young man’s belief in his academic potential. He can’t allow the sand to run out.

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One response to “You Don’t Have to be a Genius to Try Your Best

  1. Pingback: Remainders: Swing-state voters say education is a top priority | GothamSchools

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