During my senior year at the United States Air Force Academy, I was boxing against a Golden Gloves fighter who I wasn't supposed to beat. Luckily for me, I didn't know this guy had that type of experience. I falsely believed I was better than he was and went out into the ring with the attitude that I was going to win. I wasn't bad, but I was no Golden Gloves fighter either. That night--call it a combination of determination and luck, coupled fortunately with my lack of knowledge about how good this guy was--I won by a unanimous decision. This type of thing doesn't happen every time obviously, but I'm convinced that if I had known I was outclassed, I would have, in my mind found an excuse to lose, and I may have subconsciously, or perhaps even consciously fought like it, and I most definitely would have lost. Instead, I went out there really believing--not just saying it--but really believing I was going to win, and I fought like it. That night, against all odds, I won decisively versus a better opponent.
So, what's the point ... I have found that once a student believes--really believes--they are gifted enough to conquer a subject, very little will get in the way of success. They will find ways to win at things they were never "supposed" to win at. This newly acquired confidence coupled with focus can make seemingly average students brilliant in the eyes of others. (They are most likely brilliant anyway. Academic success is just external proof to others, and themselves of the wonderful qualities they already possess.)
I see my job as helping students find that brilliance in themselves, by showing them how to succeed. I see it over and over again--a young man or woman believing they aren't good at math or science etc, or academics in general. These students believe that others are excelling because they are more gifted and or more qualified. My job is helping students change those thought patterns and develop the confidence and yes, stubbornness to really shine in subjects they never dreamed of being good at. It is amazing to watch a student break through barriers and achieve what beforehand seemed unattainable. Once this happens, there is very little to hold this young man or woman back. The experience can become life changing, and that is what makes my job awesome!