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Always Assume The Best In Students

Always Assume The Best In Students

by Terry Heick

Always assume the best in students; at worst, assume there’s more to know.

If they fail, assume they tried and what another chance. At worst, assume they weren’t aware of what they weren’t aware of.

If they break a rule, assume they weren’t aware of the rule. At worst, assume they had forgotten.

If they say or do something that reflects poorly on them, assume that’s something they had to say or do just once to learn from it. At worst, assume that they meant to say or do something else.

The suppositions you have about your students and why they do what they do is a powerful thing. And those suppositions often come from a mindset you have about what a teacher is ‘supposed to do’ and what a student is ‘supposed to do.’ They can create that mindset, too. Meaning what you assume can impact what you think and believe about teaching learning. It goes both ways, and assuming the best about students–even when you know intellectually that you’re wrong and that supposition isn’t true–can transform the tone of your classroom.

Assuming the best in students shouldn’t just be a way of thinking, but rather a way of teaching. It should come out in how you speak (‘Because I know how important reading is to you, I’m confused why your reading pace has dropped off so much in the last 6 weeks).

It should come out in how you teach (giving them 2nd and 3rd and 4th chances to complete assignments).

It should come out when you speak to parents about their child, and even when you design that next project-based learning unit as you assume the best in their potential and help them see for themselves what they’re capable of.

In the face of pressure for performance–from you and from students–patience can seem like a luxury. As a teacher, you’re not paid to be patient, or to give endless opportunities or show infinite and possibly irrational optimism.

Except that you are.

If you need to think about patience and opportunity as bridgeways to performance, that’s okay. You can also think of it the other way around. We all have a strong temptation to teach lessons to others, but there is a timing to understanding that is exceptionally difficult to pin down.

The lives of students are messy and pressure-filled and confusing. They’re kids–even when they’re in college. Their childhood is their time to live and learn and fail and learn and succeed and learn. That time never really ends; we all are failing and living and succeeding and learning everyday. But for children, it’s an especially sensitive time as they are developing their sense of self and need support in growing the kind of identity and mindset that will serve them for a lifetime.

Assuming the best in a child, even when they give you reason to think otherwise, is one of the most significant investments you can make in their future.

Always assume the best in students; at worst, assume there’s more to know.