I was recently speaking to an administrator at a well known private school. We were discussing a student and working on strategies to help the student do well in the school year. At one point the administrator said, “You’ve had such success working with this student, I would love to pick your brain on things that we can use here at school.”
I thought for a moment and then replied, “Well, what’s something that you like about this student? What is something that you admire about them?” The administrator laughed nervously and said, “Well, what do you mean…?”
I said, “Think about what it is you like about this student. This student has been in your school for 5 years now. When you like someone, you want to help them, and when you want to help someone, you adapt yourself and you find a way to help them. If you were trying to help your own child, and weren’t successful, you would keep trying to find ways to help them because you care about them, you want to see them succeed.”
I went on to tell the administrator that I use this little piece of advice with myself all the time, and regularly recommend it to parents and other educators. I mean, it’s pretty basic, how can you not want to help someone you like or admire? Even if you can just find one thing, the simplest thing, that you like about a person, and use that to motivate yourself to help them. If you like someone, you want to help them, plain and simple. (And if you are like me, you end up loving your students like your own, because kids have so many things that are endearing.)
It can be trying at times, and I won’t pretend otherwise. I was once at a total loss of how else I could help my student. She just kept telling me, “I don’t get it, I’m sorry, but I don’t get it.” I said, “You know what, I’m glad that you are being honest with me, I’m really glad that you keep trying and aren’t afraid to admit that you still need some more help.” She immediately let out a huge sigh of relief and we both started laughing together. We gave the problem another go and soon found success.
I use this little tip with my own daughter sometimes. When I find myself remaining angry or feeling angrier than I should over something I stop myself and say to her, “I love how you are listening to me” or “I love that you are my daughter.” After all, who doesn’t like to be liked? And it’s our human nature to help those we do.