This I Believe

Rachel - Mesa, Arizona
Entered on April 1, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

I Believe … Attitude Matters

I’m not good at math. So last summer when I volunteered to be a teacher’s aide at a summer school for elementary-aged kids, I was a little nervous to be assigned to a math class. However my tensioned eased on the first day when the teacher explained my duties: I was to grade papers, take attendance hand out pencils, etc. I was hardly going to interact with the kids. That is, until Mia came.

At eight years old, she was the oldest student in the class and couldn’t count to ten. She preferred to nod her head instead of speaking, and even when she did speak, her voice was barely a whisper. It soon became clear that she was developmentally delayed. I took her aside from the rest of the class and spent all hour with her, one on one with homemade flashcards and worksheets, trying to teach her basic math skills. Working with Mia was frustrating, at best. She didn’t seem to retain anything I tried to teach her. When she didn’t know an answer, she would sit in silence, eyes downcast until I asked her is she didn’t understand, to which she would nod her head. We spent most of class this way. . Even when she got a correct answer, I couldn’t tell if she understood, or was simply repeating what I told her, in her scarcely audible voice. It was frustrating. Mia badly needed help, but I didn’t know how to reach her.

The worst point came at the end of the week, Friday, when another volunteer was working with me. Visibly frustrated she snapped at Mia when she couldn’t identify which number came after one. “Come on Mia, you just said it a minute ago!” Sensing the anger in her voice, Mia completely shut down and wouldn’t answer anymore questions for the rest of the day.

I realized then just how much impact our attitudes have on other people. Mia was clearly not responding to my naturally reserved nature and picking up on my frustration. I decided the best way to reach her was to be as positive and beat as possible. That next Monday, I greeted Mia with a big smile. I clapped my hands and cheered her when she got the right answer, and told her how proud I was of her. The difference was amazing. She began learning at a speed that amazed me, and her voice became clear and confident. By the time school ended three weeks later, she could count to one hundred all by her self, and do simple adding and subtracting. On the last day of school, I told Mia how proud and excited I was for her, and I truly meant it. By simply changing my attitude I was able to truly help Mia.

This I believe: our attitudes dictate how we live our lives, but they also effect the lives other people and positive attitude can make all the difference.