I remember many years ago when I worked for a public school district and I was touching base with the teacher about one of her students. I asked her if she had any insight about the child’s motivators — things I could use to motivate him in therapy.
The next few words out of her mouth really made an impact on me forever. She said, “Johnny? Don’t even bother. He is not too smart and he will probably end up being a truck driver or something.”
Did I just hear those words out of her mouth, I thought to myself.
A teacher is supposed to be a motivator, a role model, a person who believes in their students and their ability to learn. In this case, she was saying don’t even bother to teach him because any effort on him was useless.
I could have been influenced by this “seasoned” teacher, as I was just starting my career and trying to find my way. But no, from such a negative and out-of-the-blue comment came the making of my own ideas about learning.
Helping a child succeed requires believing in their potential to improve. If you don’t, they will not learn. When you doubt, they will not improve. If you give up, then so will they.
But the biggest point is when we really feel like throwing in the towel on a kiddo, we need to push through those doubts and believe in them and ourselves so much that we seek to find another perspective or someone else’s opinion on what to try next but we should always continue to be positive and committed to that child.
I hear often, “I just don’t know what to do next. Nothing’s working.” When I hear this, I usually advise the therapist to look at their own beliefs, try to become the child’s best friend, and start over.
We can always learn something new. We can always gain another tool for our tool box. But personally I believe in children, their desire to learn and, most importantly, their right to communicate.
If you believe you can help the child, you are right. And if you believe you can’t, you are also right.