By Jennifer Aceves, Head of High School
“I don’t think I can do this.” How many times have you had this thought? As a parent or educator, how many times have you heard your children or students say this? Do you find it hard to change that mindset and develop self-confidence about a new skill or one that has historically been difficult?
At Noble Academy, we naturally incorporate strategies into the school day to help our students find success in areas where they have previously struggled. Once they experience success, no matter how small, we can build on that to inspire more success and develop self-confidence.
We also seek out ways to develop self-confidence outside the classroom. Skills Week is a week every fall where our junior high and high school students take a break from their regular class schedule to engage in different activities that develop important skills such as independence, self-advocacy, collaboration, problem solving, and flexibility. Every other year, our 9th and 10th grade students travel to the mountains for a 3-day stay at SOAR, a camp that, like our school, specializes in serving students with ADHD and learning differences. Our students take ownership in planning some of the activities on the trip, such as white water rafting, high ropes course, archery, and caving. For some students, this may be the first time they have spent the night away from their families (I don’t think I can do this). Some have never attempted to do a high ropes course because they are afraid of heights (I don’t think I can do this). Some have never gone white water rafting because they are not strong swimmers (I don’t think I can do this). Some have never been in a cave because they are afraid of enclosed spaces (I don’t think I can do this). Some have never tried archery or hatchet throwing, and are afraid of failing in front of others (I don’t think I can do this). Some are very comfortable with camping and adventure, but have only done it with family, friends, or a scouting/youth group – not with classmates they may not know very well (I don’t think I can do this).
Everyone on the trip found themselves outside of their comfort zone at least once, and some for the entire three days. However, every single student was encouraged by their classmates, teachers, friends, and counselors to persevere, to push past the discomfort to find their own level of success, big or small. I spent time in the cave with a student who wanted to turn around even before we stepped inside. She not only made it all the way through, but successfully completed a cave crawl through a section that at its tightest, was only about two feet high! By the end of our adventure, she had developed enough confidence in her caving abilities that she was able to help and encourage her classmates who needed support. She did not particularly enjoy that adventure, but she definitely demonstrated perseverance to push through to success, and trust in others to help her through a difficult experience.
Back at school, we are able to leverage these camp experiences to encourage students to persevere through difficult academic tasks. If you can crawl through a two foot high cave, you can figure out this math problem. I see you are struggling to get started on this paper. I also know you struggled to jump off a rock into a cold river, but you took that plunge. Are you anxious about doing well on your history test? Remember when you thought you couldn’t walk across that wire 40 feet in the air but you did it? I know it feels hard to try out for soccer, but remember how hard it felt to spend two nights in a cabin without electricity? We just have to take it one step at a time. Let’s work together to turn “I can’t do this” into “it was hard, but I did it, and I’m ready for what’s next.”
*Sponsored by Noble Academy