“Oh, My God! I feel so smart!” shouted a female student in 3rd period AP Stats class today, since she was so happy that she correctly answered two questions in a row during a group activity. It was great to hear her shout this out so excitedly, nearly jumping out of her chair with glee. It made me feel happy, too, since I was helping her just a moment earlier grasp the concept that tossing two coins constituted one event and not two in our experimental trial; she was confusing the number of coins in her calculations of cumulative proportions with the number of times a specific outcome occurred. I was not completely sure she understood my explanation either since she still referred to the “number of heads” as her count per outcome, but apparently, she properly discerned the finer point.
Students rarely experience that they, indeed, are smart. All too many have bought into external and internal messages that they are not capable, smart, good, or worthwhile. These messages come from so many sources in their lives that they soon start to buy-in to them. This creates a self-fulfilling prophecy, acting almost in perpetual motion, fueled by all the false beliefs, active in their minds, sprouting from the multitude of negative seeds planted during their life. I see my job as the caring gardener, removing the weeds of negativity, replacing them with seeds of self-confidence that will yield much fruit over time if tended to with care. My hope is for students to find a way to serve as their own gardener someday, helping keep their mental gardens healthy, as well as those of others they may need to mentor someday. Until then, I keep my eye on the lookout for the smallest of weeds peeking up from the soil, tugging on them gently to pull the roots out completely, never to take hold in that soul again.