I have witnessed this to be the case for many students who repeatedly disengage from new learning material and attribute this to a lack of confidence. These students lack confidence in their abilities which are often attributed to repeated experiences of difficulty and/or failure. This generates a negative interpretation in the limbic system fostering negative behaviors that exhibit frustration, anger, intimidation. It is not surprising then, that when students do not think they can do something, they often pretend to not care about it and denounce it. Even on the occasion that they do make an attempt at learning, they are quick to give up, proving to themselves that they cannot do it. The negative feelings associated with learning repress the students’ engagement in the learning process. To combat these negative feelings and encourage perseverance, the teacher must find a way to create a positive learning experience for the student, transforming their negative associations into positive ones. By doing so, the teacher sheds light upon the vast capabilities for the students’ success and paves the way for future learning endeavors.
Many students come to my class with a dislike of reading books and writing essays. They associate feelings of difficulty, failure, and disinterest with these activities. Some even say, “I hate reading” or “I can’t write in English.” Through the personal literacy unit, I want students to examine these sentiments. First, they read personal literacy narratives of well-known writers. After reading these essays, students prepare their own personal literacy narrative in order to examine something related to their experiences with reading and writing. Through this process, students often realize that they dislike reading because they usually don’t “enter” the story or don’t choose texts that interest them. Or perhaps they dislike writing because of a humiliating experience in their childhood or their fear of failing to meet their or the teacher’s expectations. By encouraging students to reflect on these previous experiences, they can become better prepared to make a fresh start and to believe that reading and writing can actually be enjoyable!