Rigor is creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels,
each student is supported so he or she can learn at high levels,
and each student demonstrates learning at high levels (Blackburn, 2008).

Monday, January 23, 2012

Luck or Effort?

Ronita, one of my former students, generally struggled in class. One day, after much hard work and studying, she made an A on a project. I was so proud of her but was stunned at her response. First, she said she was “lucky.” After I assured her that wasn’t true, she thanked me for “giving” her an A. She just didn't get it; the A it wasn’t because of any outside force (luck or me), it was her; her efforts had earned the grade.

Unfortunately, many students are like Ronita. They don’t have a strong internal locus of control—an inner confidence that they have choices and are in control of their behavior. When comparing people who are successful in an area of life (business, sports, etc.), they have one thing in common: Each had a clear vision for their life and a strong belief that they could achieve their dreams, that they were in control of their own destiny.

Compare that to people who find themselves simply existing from day to day. At some point, they look back at their life and ask, “How did I end up here? When I was young, I dreamed of [insert example].” As you talk to them, they will say things such as, “I wanted to be a musician, but someone else won the competition.” “I tried to get the promotion, but my boss doesn’t like me.” “I could have been a pro athlete, but no one gave me a chance.”

You can tell from the language; it’s always about someone or something else. Theyview control as external, or outside themselves. It’s always about other peo- ple or circumstances. There are many societal elements that encourage this attitude. Did you get in a fight? The other person started it, so you didn’t have a choice. Did you miss out on a promotion? The system is unfair. Did you commit a crime? It was because you watch television. The excuses mentality un- dermines having an internal sense of control.

A key focus for a successful classroom is self-empowerment. It is about encouraging students to believe in themselves and to do that by telling students two things:
  1. You need to have a dream or vision that is the basis for your every- day choices and decisions.
  2. Whether you succeed or fail is up to you. Period.
Tapping into an internal sense of choice and control is one of the hardest things for us to do, even as adults. Is it any wonder that students struggle with it? As a teacher, you cannot make someone believe in herself or himself; but you can provide structures, activities, and modeling to facilitate those positive beliefs.

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