You, Yes You, Can Do Well In School

Olivia Silbernagel, The Charter Opinions

Students frequently use lack of natural ability as an excuse for giving up on work when it feels too hard, but everyone has the potential to do better. A recent poll conducted on students at ACA showed that most students feel they have one or two strengths in school and are average or below average in other subjects, but changing this outlook could mean changing this reality.

The idea that we are naturally talented at a select few subjects in school is ingrained in us from a very young age. Generalizations happen throughout our lives and often stunt our growth in learning. ‘Is math hard? Well, it’s okay, it’s not your thing, you’re just better at other subjects.’ While this may be true, it is not an excuse for writing off a subject and accepting a bad grade.

These generalizations not only put students in boxes, but they actually limit a student’s ability to learn and perform in school. Carol Dweck, a psychologist, covered this issue in her 2014 TED Talk as well as her book Mindset . The talk discussed how students who believe that they can succeed are more proficient than students who don’t. Dweck calls this philosophy the “growth mindset”. Her research shows students who saw math problems above their grade level as a fun challenge performed much better than students who saw it as an insurmountable problem.

But what about students with disabilities?  Students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia and dyscalculia or disabilities that impact learning such as Autism or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder are not exempt from this. When given the right tools anyone can do well in school. When put into classes that match ability, given support from teachers, and with the right outlook, a learning disability does not make someone unable to achieve. In her TED Talk, Carol Dweck stated that “Before [changing their mindset], effort and difficulty made [students] feel dumb, made them feel like giving up.” When we change how we think about our own ability, we can actually change our ability.

When asked about the issue, Erin Holman, an ES and teacher at ACA, said that she feels it is important for students to find the tools necessary for their academic success. Mrs. Holman says she “always hope[s] that ACA is a place where people can learn to feel comfortable asking for help” and feels that it is critical to teach students not to give up when they struggle. When asked about students writing off subjects they are not naturally ‘gifted’ in, Holman said that “there has to be a balance…I don’t know that writing things off entirely is a good idea. Maybe better to think of them as things you might try later.”

When we, as students, believe that we have a fighting chance at succeeding in school, our chances of receiving good grades go up. There’s no guarantee that your grades will magically go up overnight, but there’s no possibility of success if no attempt is made. The only true failure in learning is not trying. So, here’s the secret to success in school: try your best.



Dweck, Carol. TED Talk. Nov. 2014,

Online Poll. Oct. 18, 2017

Holman, Erin. Email Interview. Oct. 26 2017