Help your Student Navigate the Assumption Clouds forming as the New School Year begins...

August 21, 2017


“The greatest masterpieces were once only pigments on a palette.”

– Henry Hoskins


Since I can remember, I've been excited by the challenge, unknown and hope involved with beginnings. 


I was the first in my family to do many different things, from attending an overnight basketball camp (on my own) in 4th grade to attending a 4 year college 6 hours from home. I've always held the belief that if one feels hope in their heart, anything is possible. This hopeful and optimistic view has been the catalyst to me taking risks and embracing challenging situations. Sometimes I've succeed, other times I've failed...but I always learned.


As Marie Forleo so eloquently put, "Everything is Figureoutable." As we begin this new school year, there is so much hope and optimism among students, teachers and parents. The possibilities are endless, the potential infinite and the excitement encouraging. 


And yet, I've begun to encounter and uncover assumptions and limiting beliefs in some of the teen clients. This is an example of what it may look like:


Me: What excites you about the new year?

Teen: My math teacher. 


Me: For what reason?

Teen: I had her last year.


Me: And what made you enjoy her class?

Teen: The way she teaches. She doesn't just lecture. She has us do activities... etc.


(after a little more conversation around the excitement of having this teacher again)


Me: Terrific. What concerns you about the new year?

Teen: I'm not sure.


Me: If you were sure. What might you say?

Teen: Ummm... maybe science. 


Me: What concerns you about science?

Teen: The teacher is really hard. And, I don't like science.


And now the coaching begins. 


What mindset do you think this student has entering the math classroom? And the science? 


How will the positive assumptions about this Math class impact how they will approach this class, the homework and their overall engagement with this class? 


This student's response - paraphrased: I'll be more engaged in the class, ask more questions and do my homework - all of which - will likely lead to better overall performance. 


How will the negative assumptions about this Science class impact how they will approach this class, the homework and their overall engagement with this class?


This student's response - paraphrased: I'll likely be less engaged, ask fewer questions and while I'll do my homework, it will be a struggle and I probably won't feel like doing it. All of which, will likely lead to not doing as well as I could have. And then I'll tell myself, "See, it is a hard class just like they said", which will only provide the evidence to disengage even more. 


As humans, we want to prove ourselves right, regardless of whether the assumptions and stories we tell ourselves are positive or negative. Help your student identify the negative story they are telling themselves and ask them questions to articulate the positive version for themselves. 


In this particular case, in either case there isn't a guarantee. Just because this student did well in the previous Math class led by this teacher, doesn't guarantee they will be successful in this advanced class. And simply because other student's thought this Science teacher was difficult, doesn't mean this student will find it as challenging. Making a positive assumption, however, will tend to lead to perspectives and actions that are positive because of wanting to prove ourselves right.


Two questions to ask your students as they begin the year:

1. Picture yourself at the end of the year. What would you like to have accomplished that you'll be proud of? What's ONE action item you can perform daily to assist in accomplishing that outcome? 


2. What's something you could see as providing a challenge or obstacle in accomplishing that outcome? What's ONE action item you are willing to commit to towards overcoming that obstacle? 


"Whether you think you can or whether you think you can't, you're right." - Henry Ford.


Have a question or idea you'd like to see addressed in a blog post? Please email me at I'll be happy to consider it for my next post. 

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