I participated in an education chat on Twitter, and I wrote “I meet students where they are at and accept them for who they are. My goal is to get them to reach their dreams one state at a time.” First, let me say, it takes a lot of skill to condense a thought into so little words. I just started on Twitter, and it’s maddening when you step 4 letters over! Second, this teeny thought got a lot of attention through likes and retweets. So, I thought I would expand upon it in a longer forum.
My philosophy as a school counselor, and now as an Academic Coach, is to meet students where they are at. I tell my kiddos I don’t care about what the computer tells me about their grades or discipline record. I don’t care what a 6th grade standardized test predicted about their potential. It makes no sense to me to look at the past. You can’t change it, so why punish a student for behavior or grades that already happened? The only thing I care about, is who is sitting in front of me. What the student shows me in the moment and how they move forward, is a stronger prediction of their character then the past. This does not mean the student won’t stumble again. Most likely there will be quite a few. However, this is part of the process.
I knew a student when I was in the school setting, who wanted to turn it around. He had a reputation as trouble maker, but he wanted something more. After we spoke, I made a point to follow up with his teachers, who said he had changed in the classroom. A month later there was a slip, and he received in school suspension. Then the grades started to fall. I called him to discuss it. He was surprised I didn’t lecture him. Instead, I told him how proud I was. I told him that people noticed the positive changes in his behavior and that one mistake did not erase that. His job now was to rebound.
I tell my kiddos my snowball analogy. It is really strange to them since we live in Florida, but I like to think it’s effective. If behavior is a snowflake, sometimes I meet kids that have formed these really big snowballs of negative things (late work, bad grades, bad behavior etc.). It took time to form this snow ball, but it grew over the years. I explain that now that there is this huge snowball, it’s hard for teachers to see past it. If the student wants to, they can create another snowball. However, it’s going to take time for this snowball of positive things (handing in homework, behavior, grades) to grow as big as their first snowball. A teacher might not notice the new snowball at first, they may even rag on you, but eventually they will notice. I told the student above that his one mistake didn’t remove the good snowball, it just meant he didn’t add any snow to it that day.
I had teachers growing up that didn’t expect much from me because they looked at my past. I felt trapped in this identity as a subpar student. That is why it is important for me to meet students where they are at now. I want every student I meet to have a chance to become their best version of themselves. I have no preconceived notion of what this version might be. What is important to me, is that the students I work with have pride and confidence in themselves. I believe that everyone deserves at least that.
Thanks @edutopia for inspiring this post and inspiring educators everywhere!