By Meg Bamford
Head of School and Learning Center
“If I believe in myself, I can never be defeated.” When I was a junior in high school, my lacrosse coach made us chant this mantra as we put our sticks together before and after a game. We were a team without a drive for victory or a desire to better our performance as individuals or even as a team. And the poor teacher who had been assigned to our snarky, distracted, boy-crazy squad had little experience in the lacrosse world. The season passed, the teacher moved on (who could blame her), yet her words still ring true. I hear her wisdom when I watch our students approach challenges, and even as I encounter difficult situations in my own life.
Strong self-esteem built on a solid foundation of setting small goals to accomplish a larger goal is a gift that is critical for our students at Miriam School – and for all unique learners. Kids today live in a world of instant gratification. I think about how children can easily obtain information by asking, “Hey Siri” versus my parents who would say, “Go look it up.” Most children are not gathering the information that they know about life from places like encyclopedias, watching documentaries, or talking to older family members. Rather, students can be sponges of information that comes from unfiltered Youtube, Tik Tok, and reality tv shows.
There are not a lot of opportunities to have students understand the countless hours it takes for a thirteen-year-old skateboarder to compete in the Olympics, or how fortunes are generally not built overnight. Everything is edited with a focus on the final product without understanding the tremendous process it took for an accomplishment like a gold medal. It is so important for students to hear from their loved ones about the time and effort it took to accomplish goals such as building a house, starting a business, or getting a degree.
Accomplishments in our classrooms, especially for those of us who are unique learners, do not happen instantly. Our students need to work hard to build their skills, to celebrate their small successes to see how each positive outcome provides mortar for a solid foundation of competence and confidence. I truly believe in the end, they will be better for it.
Truly building skills takes hours of practice. Researcher Malcolm Gladwell reminds us that it takes 10,000 hours of intensive practice to achieve mastery. As the old adage goes, (genuine) success breeds momentum for greater success. Life is not easy; however, with solid self-esteem, students can draw from within to push forward. It is a collective mission, to build their confidence, but then again if “we believe in ourselves, we can never be defeated.”