How well I recall my mother’s first explanation of my intelligence. After a sixth grade conference with my teacher, she returned home to tell me, “Dear, you are just average. You will have to work hard to do well.” I wasn’t sure what it was all about, but it didn’t sound good. For me, learning seemed easy, it was the tests that threw me off. Somehow the words didn’t match the ideas I thought I knew. Rather than studying more, I gave up. Getting mediocre grades was easier that studying when I already knew I couldn’t do any better.
Years later, dear Mother informed me that she had hoped that by telling me I was average, it would push me to try harder and excel. She called it reverse psychology.
I must say when I hit forty years and decided to take my masters in education, it was a pleasant surprise to discover that by studying, my grades went up. My teenage children wondered how I gotten so smart since they has seen my childhood and college report cards. Studying counts. Lots of studying counts more.
As a classroom teacher, it became important that students knew and applied a variety of study skills. Tutoring took the same approach. Each child was shown how they learned and the best way for them to study. The mantra was always the same, “You are so smart.”
Vignette. One young man in fifth grade felt he didn’t need study skills. “I remember everything,” he said. I reminded him that in middle school he would be with others who were as intelligent as he was, and the work would be harder and taught faster. Grudgingly, he learned the study skills. The following year, he surprised me. He returned to tell me that indeed the work was harder, and his classmates were as smart as he was. “I remembered that you told me that I might feel I had lost my smarts and couldn’t succeed, but that actually I was just being challenged. So, I didn’t give up. I used those skills, and my grades went back up. Thank you.” Big grin from him. He made my day.
P.S. May I mention that drawing became my first love? What a great trade-off!