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Beyond Academics: A Student Success Story

Almost midway through the previous spring semester, I received an e-mail from a mother whose daughter was enrolled in a statistics for public relations course at the University of Texas at Austin. After having failed the first examination, her daughter saw little hope of passing the course (this was her second attempt; she had taken it during the previous term but to no avail). I contacted both the mother and daughter to mention that I would do all possible to help. I began working with the daughter a week later; I helped with such tasks as online homework and her instructor's study problems. As I did so, I had a couple of concerns. One was that her notes and work were not well-organized; she often had difficulty following what she did from step to step. I assisted her in managing this via demonstrating sample problems and outlining each step; I had her do likewise by assigning her several of my problem sets to complete as additional practice. Furthermore, I gave her advice on better organizing her work and notes and using her study time more efficiently. Once she did these things, she understood the material better and found it to be less overwhelming. However, a bigger issue was a lack of self-confidence. After an unsuccessful first attempt at the course and her performance on her first test, she saw her chances of passing the course gradually diminishing. I, as did her mother, thought that she was going to merely give up; I encouraged her to stay the course and reassured her that she was smarter than for what she credited herself and knew more than she thought she did. I knew she could handle the material; the task was helping her, too, realize it. With each subsequent session, she gradually gained greater self-confidence and a self-esteem boost, and her grades greatly improved. She became more hopeful about her course success; she began to see the light at tunnel’s end. On the day of her final examination, I e-mailed her with somewhat of a pep talk; I advised her to take her time, think carefully and clearly, do not make the questions more difficult than necessary, and believe in herself (I certainly pulled for her). She e-mailed me several days later and informed me that she scored a "B" on the final test and a “B” in the course. Several days thereafter, her mother e-mailed me to thank me for my hard work and having so much faith in her daughter. She mentioned that I was both a great teacher and motivator. That truly made me feel good and what I did so worthwhile.

As a teacher, I go well beyond academics; sometimes when students feel that success is out of reach, I am there to not only impart knowledge but also to be encouraging and give emotional support. I give students hope and bring to light their abilities which leads to greater can-do attitudes. With these, they can conquer the seemingly insurmountable and see that there are no limits to their accomplishments. Aside from having someone who truly cares about both his or her students’ success and well-being, all it takes are determination and a positive attitude. To quote a line in Sade's song "When Am I Going to Make a Living?": "There is no end to what you can do if you give yourself a chance to prove."