This week at Assembly, I spoke to Secondary students about two students I taught in Grade 8 Mathematics. Both found Maths incredibly challenging throughout Grade 7. One experienced serious Maths anxiety. For her, just coming into each lesson was a challenge. She made great progress in Grade 7, but still perceived herself to be ‘bad’ at Maths. They both were quick to let me know that they had not passed a Maths test since starting secondary school.

What impressed me most when I started teaching them in Grade 8, was the way they came into the classroom each lesson, ready to learn. They listened to the explanation to ideas, they let me know if they did not understand, they worked together during independent practice time. When they asked for help, they did not want me to give them the answer because they wanted to solve questions for themselves. Instead, they wanted me to focus on the method. When we were preparing for a topic test, they went through the unit overview and identified areas where they needed additional revision.

It was the little things they did each lesson that made a big difference over time. The self-discipline, persistence and reflectiveness did not make the subject less challenging, but it did make a difference to their capacity to make small gains. I shared a quote with students, often attributed to Aristotle:

‘We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is then not an act but a habit.’

In a few months, I saw amazing progress. On the last assessment before I left to come to SCC, they achieved good results. They were both encouraged by the improvement. One of them immediately started looking through to identify the areas she needed to work on in preparation for the end of term test. It was the habits the students had adopted that made such a remarkable difference in a short time.

One of the big obstacles for the first student was changing her internal narrative that told her she was ‘dumb’ and that that she would never be good at Maths. With the consistent encouragement of her parents, the example of her friend and some small successes along the way, the negative self-talk had started to ease. The challenges she experienced in Maths were now less of a reflection on her as a person.

I hope all our students are able to see that who they are is not defined by their grades in any subject. They are not defined by their looks, their sport or musical skill or by any other aspect of themselves. The book of Romans makes it very clear for us that none of us is perfect. We have all fallen short of the glory of God. But He loved us so deeply that He did not even spare his Son so we could live in peace with Him. Anything we do, then, is out of thanksgiving and praise.

Ephesians 2: 10

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Jodie Bennett