The Power of Structure, or The Upside of Guilt
When I was in high school, I was a competitive swimmer. Everyday, sometimes twice a day, I arrived at the Carrollwood Village Country Club for swim practice. I brought with me my bag with my suits and goggles, towel, and change of clothes. I showed up for practice no matter how I felt, whether I was tired or energized, in a good or a bad mood. And I swam, swam, swam, laps and laps and laps and laps. After years of this dedication I had become captain of the team, team record holder, and national qualifier.
Eventually, my success as a swimmer helped me to get into a great college.
What motivated me to work so hard and so consistently? The honest answer is a combination of three factors:
- My own personal drive to be better
- My coach
- Guilt *
I believe I should clarify number 3. Why guilt? Is that too strong a word? I knew that showing up for practice on time everyday and working hard was expected of me by my teammates, my coach, and ultimately myself. If I slacked off or did not meet expectations, I would feel guilty. I knew that the harder I worked, the better I could be, and so each practice was an opportunity to improve.
In essence, the guilt was kind of like a guide. A guide that kept me on the track to success.
As a test prep tutor, I have seen that in general, the equation for student success is quite simple. The students who work harder, more often, and with good methods excel on these tests. Those who work sporadically, half-heartedly, without a healthy dose of “guilt” are not properly prepared when test day comes.
Just as I had the structure of the team and the motivating force of a coach whom I respected to keep me focused and committed as a swimmer, the weekly tutoring session and the coach-like tutor are the ingredients for students’ success on standardized tests.
I know that all students, deep down, want to do well on these tests. Many adolescents are at a critical stage where they are almost, but not yet fully self-motivated. They need help. Solid weekly structure, solid guidance, and a touch of guilt can go a long way!