Reversing the downward spiral – why building up confidence must come with intervention

One of the things I marvel at is watching the metamorphosis in both self-confidence as well as dramatic academic gains.  I constantly see kids whose confidence is lagging when they arrive; thinking they are “stupid,” or “I can’t read–I’ll never be a good reader.”  To then watch their progress and finally  leave with the knowledge that they can do anything they put their minds to:  priceless.  I recently read an article by David DiSalvo in Psychology Today, “19 Reasons Why Willpower Fails You, And What To Do About It.”   He presents several concepts on why people, or in our case children, fail at something. The key points I want to bring out are the elements of lack of belief in succeeding, adaptation to quitting, and apathy to try. Dr. Paul Beljan refers to this as “learned helplessness.”  He talks a lot about this being the point you do not want kids to reach.  So how do we avoid this?   DiSalvo says to break the cycle of expecting to fail leading to failure and then adapting to quitting (which becomes a neural path over time) requires a process to replace this cycle, which, when performed continually, reinforces success. The lessons at Learning Pathways are designed such that the student is lead through work with socratic questioning, which takes a student through the process in an empowering learning environment resulting in success after success coming from the student (but led by the tutor). This plays into the last element from DiSalvo, “Lack of feedback promotes apathy,” where he notes:  “Research also shows. . .feedback, the faster you get it, the better.”   In the one-on-one setting at Learning Pathways, feedback is instant and supportive.  We are in a unique position to counter the apathy by helping the student achieve the correct outcome during the lesson–not at the end of the week or month, i.e., the weekly spelling or math test. This leads to showing the student just how many strengths they have, how they can indeed learn and master skills they weren’t thinking they were capable of mastering.  Over the period of the program and continual “achieving,” our students can and do come away believing in their ability to succeed. This, along with the tools we give them, is where our program strikes gold.