Not seeing the best in our students is not as much an issue for them as it is for us. Many of them go happily along feeling free and knowing they just want to stay under the radar of parents, school, teachers and traditional expectations. Jimmy, for example, is a C-student who, “… trained us. He just didn’t care about his grades and we had to learn to re-think our assumptions,” says Joanne, Jimmy’s mother. Beaming out from a frame of wavy auburn hair, Joanne continues, “He’s a really happy kid. He loves drums and soccer and hanging out with his friends. All the talk about college rankings didn’t faze him a bit. He just found a few schools he liked and picked one that accepted him. “
Of course there are also those in the bottom 80% who– with their peers in the top 20%– succumb to anxiety and/or depression. About 1 in 5, from the top of the class to the bottom, will end up in a full-blown clinical depression during high school. Many others, top and bottom, will manage their symptoms of anxiety or depression to “get by.” Meanwhile, there will be students in the bottom 80% of their classes who go merrily on their way, like Jimmy, despite the concerns of the adults around them.
So how can you get your student to be happy?
Get happy first. It’s like the announcement on the plane, “… put on your oxygen mask first, then help your child.” When we start seeing kids as the brilliant, gifted, high-potential, awe-inspiring, learning-able, beings that they are, no matter how they do in school, everything changes. We need to secure our own belief in them before we can help them.
Try this: Notice the way you feel when you think of someone who isn’t living up to his/her potential. Think of the problems, what might be causing the problems, and how these problems play out in school or life.
Chances are good that you feel sad, scared, worried, unhappy, overwhelmed or depressed when you think about this person.
Now think of someone who is living up to his/her potential and think about the positive factors that help him/her to do so well. Notice how you feel when you think about this person.
Chances are good you feel uplifted, calmer, and/or happier thinking about person #2 than the first.
It’s Not You
It used to be that we thought the reason we felt better about person #2 was because s/he was doing well. But now we’ve discovered that this isn’t the reason at all: the situation is not what causes our feelings (learn more in the video “You Can Change a Feeling Now.”)
The reason we feel better in the second case is because of what we’re thinking: we’re admiring what person #2 does well, his/her positive attributes. It’s also because we believe in the model that person #2 is succeeding within—so we see it as a good thing that s/he is meeting the standards of this model.
The reason we feel worse about person #1 is because we believe s/he is failing at a model that we believe is all-important. Instead of creating new models that recognize the best in this person, we try to squeeze him into one that doesn’t fit – and then we decide that there’s a problem with the student, not the model. In reality, the opposite is true: it’s the model that’s wrong, not the student (learn more about The Myths of Education™).
When we can let go of the flawed belief systems we have adopted and see the beauty in our students, we feel uplifted. In the short run, this is the greatest benefit you can give yourself and another – you see, even when our kids want to feel good about themselves, they feel bad seeing a parent or teacher unhappy.
Think of a person who you knew believed in you, even though s/he didn’t say it aloud. How did you feel? How did you sense this person’s belief in you?
It’s the same for your student. No matter what you say or do, your child senses whether or not you believe in him. When you feel good about what you see, he knows it, whether or not you speak it. Likewise when you feel bad about what you see.
What do you want your student to sense in you?