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Fighting the predictability in my head

favicon As a teacher, it’s important to see patterns in academic behavior so that I can support students who are struggling.

But today I made a big mistake. I assumed something bad about a student and let my brain make negative conclusions.

I’ve been working pretty hard with this student since August to build a relationship, develop trust, and encourage her to seek support and not to give up. We’ve been making a lot of progress — until today.

It’s her day to see her grammar coach at lunch. Last Wednesday, my student missed her appointment because she was finishing up college applications. When I reminded her, my student said, “Oh no. I have so many things to do today.” My response was: “You made a commitment, so you need to be there.”

I was sure that my student would honor her appointment, but when her time came, I could not find her. Instantly, familiar defensive and angry feelings came up. How dare she miss her appointment right after I told her to show up! What’s her problem? Instead of remembering the progress my student has made, and instead of trusting the relationship we’ve forged, I immediately got mad.

Then I saw her printing out her essay in the corner of the room.

I breathed deeply, and I noticed my big mistake. Even though she knew nothing of my negative thoughts, I approached my student and told her that I believe in her and that I will always trust her.

This incident is a big wake-up call. Indeed, students have let me (and themselves) down many times, and as many times I’ve seen growth, I see regression. Still, that does not mean that I can jump to negative conclusions.

I am too quick to judge.

If I’m truly fighting against the predictability of student failure, I must fight against my own predictable thoughts of student failure. If I ask my students to believe in themselves and their ability to achieve, I must believe in them, too. favicon



  1. John at TestSoup

    When I made my confirmation, my aunt gave me two pieces of advice:

    “Keep your side of the street clean.”


    “Give people the benefit of the doubt.”

    Both are absurdly simple yet extremely difficult. I need to remind myself constantly about the second one, especially.

    But, in the words of GI Joe, reminding yourself is half the battle.

  2. paintingwithbrains

    We’ve all been there. It’s hard not to assume a kid’s behavior once you’re familiar with their patterns. Don’t be so hard on yourself- the big thing is that you didn’t react before figuring out you were wrong. I’ve definitely had moments like these. I find it actually makes me respect the student more when I’m wrong about them.

    • Mark Isero

      One of my strengths is that I move slowly, even when I’m angry. That quality definitely helps me because sometimes I realize my mistake and nobody has to find out!

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