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Believing in Students

May 31, 2013 by

By Kwok-Sze Wong, Ed.D., Executive Director of the American School Counselor Association (ASCA)apple-150x150

One of my former classmates, who is now a superintendent of a small school district in Pennsylvania, once told me whenever he hires a new teacher, he starts the interview with the same question: “Do you believe in your students?” It seems like a simple question, one that has an obvious answer for educators. But if we look deep enough, I think we’d find that many adults who work with our children on a daily basis don’t truly believe in them.

Numerous studies have shown that there are wide discrepancies between what students believe and what adults believe. A majority of students believe they’ll graduate from high school and go to college, yet many teachers and parents believe their students will not graduate and will not go to college. And this belief drives their actions. Some of my own children’s teachers have made me want to ask them, “What are you doing here? Do you really believe my child can learn? Are you helping him learn or are you just trying to get through the day?”

As another school year draws to an end, we look hopefully to the future for positive changes in the world and to the students who will bring about those changes. There’s no question that we live in challenging times. We’re still recovering from the worst economic recession in decades. Our families, friends and co-workers are losing their jobs and their homes. We’ve dealt with tragedies such as the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., and natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy and the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma. Meanwhile, many politicians and titans of business continue to act in ways we would never tolerate from students, which makes us wonder if we’ll ever see real change.

In the face of all this, it’s easy to feel dejected. It’s easy to want to withdraw. It’s easy to wonder whether it’s worth continuing the struggle. But every school counselor I meet is positive and hopeful, ready to take on any challenges that come with each new day. I’ve wondered how school counselors can maintain that energy. And then I realize school counselors believe in their students. You believe your students can succeed and will build not just a better life for themselves but a better world for all of us.

This is the essence of education, the deep belief that every student can succeed.

Until next year, believe in your students, and believe in yourself. Don’t give up on any challenge because you know you can overcome it. Life is a journey, and I hope every day is filled with the spirit that makes this country great.

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