Let’s talk about emotional reactions to learning

Note: This blog post first appeared with Triad Moms on Main on October 23, 2018.

 

The year was 1994. Bill Clinton was president, OJ Simpson was arrested, and I was in 3rd grade, having an emotional breakdown while trying to learn my multiplication tables.

Nearly 25 years later, I still remember how overwhelmed, anxious, and hopeless I felt when trying to memorize my times tables. “Everyone else is smarter than me!” I cried to my mother. “I’ll never learn this. I’m going to make all F’s this year.” It was the first time I had really struggled in school, and it took a toll on me emotionally. I became convinced that I was a failure, that I was doomed to never learn and never improve.

When students are having difficulty in class, it is tempting to jump straight into the course content. But students in academic crisis often need emotional support. They need guidance to gather the confidence to re-approach their class with a mindset that they can learn and improve.

Students often begin tutoring with thoughts like:

“Everyone else in the class get it. I’m the only one doesn’t understand.”
“I can’t do this. What’s the use in trying?”
“I hate school. Nothing makes sense.”
“I don’t know where to begin.”
“I don’t want to ask for help, because I don’t want to look stupid.”

Many students marinate in the feelings of failure until it permeates and they feel like they will never succeed. These emotions put students in failure-avoidance mode, scared to grow and learn. It can also shut down critical communication between students and their teachers.

 

emotional reactions to learningThis is why I love my work at A Step Ahead Academic Center. We are able to work with students one-on-one, and in a private, judgement-free environment students voice these doubts and fears about school. Tutors are able to work with students on how to approach school with a growth mindset, reminding students that just because they don’t understand something now doesn’t mean they never will. It means it’s time to create a plan and find a method of instruction that works best for each individual.

The most rewarding part of tutoring is watching these emotional reactions to school change as both confidence and understanding improve. I love seeing students move to the mindset that they can improve, and build the courage to ask questions and challenge themselves.

We celebrate each small victory as it comes:

“I helped my friend with a question today.”
“My teacher called on me in class and I knew the answer!”
“I got the bonus question on the test.”
“I had a question in class, and I raised my hand and asked in front of everyone.”

Is your student struggling in school? Contact Bill Tessien, director of A Step Ahead Academic Center, and learn more about our individualized approach to tutoring and student support. Call (336) 766-7124 or email info@astepaheadacademiccenter.com to set up a free consultation.

written by Angela Anderson, faculty, A Step Ahead Academic Center

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