Try to think of a time when you or someone you knew, or about whom you read, thrived under conditions that did not challenge them. The two ideas essentially negate each other because in order to thrive, people must be challenged. In addition, however, they must have the necessary skills and belief in their abilities to use those skills in order to thrive. This is the idea behind rigor in the classroom. When teachers combine high expectations with genuine belief and solid instruction, students perceive that they are capable of excelling and achieving, and they readily welcome rigor. Throughout my experiences as en educator, I have learned countless valuable lessons, among them:
- An individual teacher can exert immense influence over students just by holding them to high standards, and believing in them.
- Students reflect our perspectives of them. Much like the idea of self-fulfilling prophecies, students will attain success at whatever levels they perceive that others—particularly their teachers—believe they are capable of doing so.
- As teachers, we must focus on what we can control. By virtue of our humanity, this tends to be a difficult frame of mind to adopt. However, it is vastly wise in its simplicity. Avoid becoming a victim to circumstances beyond your reach or control. Instead, learn how to seek and create alternate options and possibilities. This kind of level-headed persistence and determination can help you meet your students’ needs, your students’ parents’ needs, and your own needs.