Navigating life’s obstacles can often seem like climbing a huge mountain: the higher we go, the more difficult the ascent becomes. The way ahead may be fraught with uncertainty; lack of experience and self-doubt can discourage us from going right to the top.
One of the things that will help us to reach the summit is a strong belief that we truly can go all the way. After all, who would attempt a potentially risky climb unless they at least had some faith that they could make it? Once a difficult journey has been completed, the feeling of accomplishment can be exhilarating and provide a strong incentive to undertake potentially more difficult climbs in the future.
Similarly, the challenges facing students in FE could be likened to climbing a mountain. Some learners may be nervous, inexperienced or lack the skills to make the initial steps. Negative past experiences may hinder them from believing that they will complete their course intact. Peer pressure may also make them feel that they will not be able to keep up with others.
How might we help? We can encourage them, teach them coping skills and guide them through difficult times. We can let them know that we wholeheartedly believe that they can reach their goals and go on to overcome even bigger challenges. We can help them to create a picture of the best version of themselves and support them to become that person.
In order for us to develop high expectations of our students, however, it would help us to reflect on how far we stretch ourselves. Are we open to new challenges? Do we regularly strive to excel at what we do? Do we seek feedback from individuals we admire?
Going the extra mile can open up new experiences and learning that we might not otherwise have encountered. If we successfully exert ourselves, then if we stretch our ability in the future, the challenge can seem more realistic and manageable.
The personal sense of satisfaction that we gain from achieving more than we thought we were capable of can spur us on to look for ways to excel in what we do. It’s important to remember, though, that we are only human and success does not come overnight.
Being open and honest about what we would like to achieve can be a strong motivator, especially if we regularly share our intentions with others. When we move nearer to attaining a higher level of challenge, we may find that colleagues actively encourage us along our way as we strive to meet our goals.
Success can often be highly contagious, and we may even find that we become known for being positive influencers and setting higher expectations in our organisation.
Paul Warren specialises in support solutions for young people with learning difficulties. He tweets @paulw_learn
This is an edited article from the 2 December edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full article here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here. This week's TES magazine is available in all good newsagents.