Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Power of Believing!


If you believe you can, you probably will.  If you believe you can't, you probably won't.

If you believe students can, they probably will.  If you believe students can't, they probably won't.

Believing in someone is extremely powerful. Believing in someone can inspire him/her and also motivate oneself to do great things.  We all know this from experience...when someone believed in us and when we believed in someone.

When I pose a challenge for a student, I pose it believing the student is capable of accomplishing it and reaching a certain level of proficiency.  I work hard to ensure the student is successful in meeting this expectation.  This may include providing encouragement, offering smaller prompts, redirecting, spending extra time working with the student and most importantly, not letting the student off the hook when he/she is capable of better.

When students know their teacher believes in them and is willing to takes the steps to ensure they reach  their potential, they do their utmost not to disappoint that teacher.  Students also begin to believe in themselves and their abilities.  It is this internal belief and self-confidence that leads to resilience when they experience challenges and setbacks.

For those of you who have experience coaching kids, I'm sure you can draw from some of your experiences when you led a group of kids to an accomplishment that very few others believed they were   capable of.  Why were they able to rise above other people's expectations? They most likely reached the level they did because you believed in them, instilled confidence in them, challenged them and worked with them.  So despite the fact that people around them may have been doubting their chances, you demonstrated your belief in them and in return they believed in you and believed they could.

I reflect on my experiences coaching basketball, softball and soccer to both boys and girls of many different ages. In all of the cases where we accomplished more than others thought we would, it was because we believed in ourselves.  Whether it was rising to the challenge and defeating a team that we had lost to many times that year, playing without a key injured player or simply hanging in and competing when others gave us no chance, these were some of the most rewarding and gratifying experiences as a coach.

I also recall a memorable experience when I taught a very reluctant learner who, after years of negative experiences at school, saw himself as having little chance of success in my Science class.  I remember thinking to myself, somehow I have to keep him interested, hopeful and gradually build his self-confidence.  In one of the first conversations I had with this student that year, I told him 'You are going be successful in this class this year'. He was surprised to hear this, probably because for the first time one of his teachers had said this to him.  As the year progressed it was obvious that the class was challenging for him.  He experienced moments when, just as he had done in the past, he was ready to give up.  The most powerful thing I did was to tell him that we weren't going to focus on his marks, rather we were going to focus on him improving each day.  We spent many mornings, lunchtimes and afterschools working together.  He would explain concepts to me while I constantly assessed his progress. I did my best to fill the gaps in his learning by explaining concepts differently and a little more slowly. We constantly reviewed, I would re-teach and he would re-learn.  Somedays I was so encouraged by the progress he was making and other times I was frustrated at the fact he couldn't seem to grasp a concept.  But, as long as I demonstrated to him that I believed in his ability to learn, he continued to put in the effort. Although I can't claim that he ever became extremely proficient in Science, I can say that he successfully completed the course and easily surpassed his original goal of 'passing'. More importantly, this accomplishment boosted his self-confidence and he became a more committed, more determined and more resilient learner.  This once reluctant learner went on to have considerably more success throughout high school and continued on to pursue a post-secondary education.

As I head back to school in January I am making a point of not just saying to students that I believe in them, but demonstrating it to them.  I encourage you to do the same!



  1. Great post! I agree that students need to know that we believe in them. Of course, they also need to know that we TRULY believe in them - students know when you are not being genuine and so I think that the first step for many educators is to examine their beliefs around student achievement and who can and is successful. Sometimes believing in a student requires a leap of faith, for sure!


  2. Thanks for the comments Shannon.

    TRULY believing is definitely the key! You are right, kids can see through it when a teacher tries to fake it. When I was in the classroom I found it much easier to make the personal connections with kids, spend the extra time and follow up with them about their work.

    As administrators we work with some reluctant learners. Often times we provide them some strategies, guidance and encouragement. Just like in the classroom, they know when we are being genuine. I find one of the most effective ways of showing that we truly care is to ask them how things went or whether they have followed through when we see these students in the hallways during class changes, breaks etc. When we follow these up with additional 'temperature checks' in the future, kids begin to know that we care and are not just brushing them off and checking them off on our to-do list.

    Of course, with all of the responsibilities on our plates, it can be challenging to find the time and remember the conversations we have had with certain kids. I think this should be a priority and I make it a point of emphasis for myself.


  3. Well put, Aaron. The best part of demonstrating your belief in students, especially those with academic/behavior challenges, are the relationships that are developed. I think it sends a good message to staff when a student who is typically known as 'difficult' can work with an administrator and demonstrate his/her positive qualities.

  4. How true. I think you can apply this to employees as well. Believe in their ability to do what you ask them to do or don't ask... I like the positive approach and will be more thoughtful when asking my staff to do stuff...

  5. Aaron - it is interesting to see the perception of coaches who move into school leadership positions. I think, there was a time, when school admin offices were full of former coaches - and then a period of correction, when those entering school leadership had to hide their coaching experience. Your post nicely highlights some of the skills and insight that comes with coaching young people. While the same can come from in-class expereinces,they are often most profound in athletics. What is true is that coaches can often translate these expereinces to the class or to other leadership opportunities.

    I really appreciate how you link your coaching experiences to your leadership. Maybe basketball coaches are not all that bad.