“Asking for help seems to be difficult for many of us. It means admitting that you are not perfect and cannot do it alone. And, in our society, we see that as a downfall. How many articles have you read about a "self-made man"? No such thing.”
Asking for help is very hard for me. I remember one time putting this lightweight bird bath together that I bought on sale at some hardware store. I didn’t want to ask my husband for help because I figured that it would be easy to do. When I hit some problems I was frustrated but refused to ask for help. Asking for help was showing that I couldn’t follow directions and I was a teacher so I should not be having any problems. Three hours later, after much agitation and sweat (and possibly tears), I went to my husband for help. Within 30 minutes, he had the birdbath assembled and ready for my bird friends. If I had just gone to him for help when I needed it, I would have saved myself many hours of anxiety and frustration.
I realize now that by not asking for help when I need it sets a bad example for my students. I want them to come to me for help but I don’t want them to see that at times I need help too. Everyone needs help at some time and there is no disgrace for asking for help. I need to be able to show them the appropriate way to ask for help.
The problem that I see in the classroom is that sometimes teachers perceive some students as lazy when they ask for help. These are the students that just need to make the effort to find the answer but would rather have the teacher feed them the information. I explain these situations to my students and tell them these aren’t real situations that warrant help. It is like calling 911 and asking for help because you want them to deliver a pizza to your house. This keeps emergency people from responding to real emergencies. Asking for the teacher’s help when you really don’t need it keeps the teacher from helping students who really need assistance. I ask the students to imagine they are the one who really needs the help and I’m busy responding to students who can find the answer themselves. I ask them to imagine how they would feel.
One way that helps me handle the situation is by delaying the assistance for a few minutes. If I think the student may be able to find an answer on his own, I may assist someone else who I think really needs me. Sometimes during that delayed time, the student is able to answer his own question. If he isn’t able to, he will wait until I can help him. At that time I will help the student find the answer but I won’t give the student the answer.
Another strategy is that the students monitor themselves. They have to ask 2 peers for help before asking the teacher. This also helps the peer who is helping because they are learning the material better. Some students actually feel more comfortable asking their peers for help than the teacher (I have to admit that I have been known to ask a colleague a question before asking the same question to the administration).
Do you ask for help when you need it? How do you teach students how to ask for help? Please share.
Image: 'Un cop de mÃ '