Success requires that we choose to say “yes” to some things and “no” to others. The key is to know how to prioritize, what to invest in, and what to refuse or abandon. Of course, the best choices are not always clear or obvious, and sometimes we cannot know the right answer except in retrospect.
Fortunately, there are some important decisions and impactful commitments we face that are clear—and our choices are significant. In fact, they can be life changing for our students and success-drivers for us. In our work with students, there are five choices we must never, ever make:
- Never give up on a student. Some students may choose to give up on themselves, but they need to know that we will be there for—and never give up on—them. We will always look for ways to help them to succeed. For too many students, our decision to give up on them may take away their last hope. We need to continue searching and supporting their learning, as well as their growth as a person, and nudging them to believe and keep trying.
- Never assume a student is not worthy. Not only do some students believe that they are not worthy, but other adults may also think that a student is not deserving of attention and advocacy. Of course, some students may do their best to convince us by their behavior that they are not worth our nudging, pressing, and pushing. However, every student who comes to us has worth. Our challenge is to recognize their worthiness, nurture their potential, and help them to see that they can be more than they assume or imagine. We cannot accept arguments or behaviors that try to convince us otherwise.
- Never accept that a student is not capable. It is true that students come with varying levels of background knowledge, skill, curiosity, and commitment. However, we cannot know what a student might be capable of accomplishing under the right conditions and with our support. Our role is to find the gifts and talents students possess and nurture them. We must magnify and extend the interests and insights students have already developed, and we need to be the constant reminder and “revealer” of their progress and possibility.
- Never believe a student’s past determines their future. Each and every one of our students come to us with their own unique back story. They may have a history of misbehavior, a record of failure, and a litany of complaints about them. Yet, the story of their future remains unwritten. We may be the influence and intervention that will change the course of their lives. We have the incredible opportunity to influence our students’ lives when most of their lives have yet to be lived. Every small shift in thinking, commitment, and hope we instill in our students today can make an outsized difference in their future.
- Never allow students to accept less than their best. Our students are already worthy and capable. Our role is to challenge them to give effort that is worthy of them. Of course, students rely heavily on our expectations, and we need to keep those expectations high. But our goal needs to be for students to adopt attitudes, invest effort, and engage in thinking that demands their best from themselves. The four choices discussed above position us to support our students to give their best, accept only their best, and achieve beyond what they may believe is possible.
When our students feel our commitment to these five crucial promises, we become the catalyst for students to trust without fear, try without hesitation, fail without despair, and soar with confidence in our support. There are no limits to what they can achieve.