Previously, I shared a little about my struggle with discovering my dream and persevering to keep it alive. This is a continuation of the previous blog post so if you haven’t read it, please read it first. As a tutor, my students are perhaps one of my greatest inspirations and one of the reasons why I write what I write.
Life’s good right now and I’m honestly very happy with where I’m at; it’s easy to forget the struggles I’ve been through and growing pains. Tutoring has given me the opportunity to come into contact with children and youths from different walks of life, and this has perhaps grounded me and kept me sober.
Today’s article is inspired by one of my ex-students. Let’s call her ‘B’. When I met her on my first lesson, she was an extremely quiet student. Very quiet and very shy. I would almost have called her frightened. She would refuse to look me in the eye and she did not respond. Throughout the lesson, she would just look at the table. She wrote beautifully heart-wrenching stories though.
I gave her space and she progressively opened up over the weeks. Where there was only a blank expression before, she would crack a shaky smile. Where there was only stony silence, she would mumble out a barely audible response to indicate whether she understood. To me, it was still progress nonetheless. Unfortunately, she was pulled out of my tutelage due to a “lack of headway in her grades”. I wasn’t all too happy about this.
It wasn’t an entire loss, however. I believe that B taught me one thing in those few weeks I was with her: Value.
In one of my attempts to try and figure B out, I had instructed her to write an essay about personal value for her homework. What came back to me struck a chord. Throughout the whole essay, all she wrote about her personal value was about grades, money, social status and intelligence; she ended the essay with how she was worth nothing because of how “stupid she was and how she couldn’t do anything useful”.
It hurt me.
I don’t mean that I took personal offense to her essay. What hurt me was that I saw a student who had put her personal value in something fleeting and been burned by it. Her belief had cost her self-esteem.
With whatever limited experience I’ve had, it seems like even the kids these days have gotten caught up in the rat race for success. This issue appears to have become more pronounced over the recent years. The concept of the 5 ‘C’s appears to have seeped into the psyche of the children around us. No longer is it enough to simply be to be happy as a child. There needs to be more material goods; more technology; better grades before even the remotest amount of satisfaction can be achieved.
Stress from too much homework, remedial lessons and enrichment classes is on the rise. Chronic depression is now being diagnosed at much younger ages. Co-relation doesn’t mean causation but this is a relation worth looking into.
On and on, whenever I ask my students about where they think their worth lies, they speak of a fear of failure – a fear of not being able to measure up and being a disappointment. It almost seems as if the pursuit of getting an ‘A’ grade has become their sole purpose in life, the reason for their existence. It’s as if they’re terrified of making a single mistake – that everything will end if they are to make even a single misstep.
Ironically, this myopic fear of failure prevents most students from truly learning. We memorise. We regurgitate. We do not allow ourselves to make mistakes and learn from them. We do not understand. We place our value in the fallibility of our humanity.
I don’t know the circumstances that led to B having such a low esteem of herself. Perhaps it was far too many cruel words and chastising from well-meaning parents. Perhaps the system she was in failed to empower her to explore and learn. Perhaps no one had ever given her a kind word to let her know that she was so much more than her grades, and that there was so much more she could do beyond studies to succeed and create a significant impact.
B saw herself as someone stupid. I saw a remarkably expressive student.
B saw herself as someone incapable. I saw someone with an ability to stir emotions through her writing.
B saw herself as a failure. I saw someone who could have achieved so much more with the right guidance.
Now the question for you: What do you see in yourself?
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