"We're Only Students" was as comment I heard from one of my students about a week ago. I was asking my class to do something that was a little challenging and out of frustration and a little in jest this was her comment. I almost went into the traditional 'It's not that hard once you get down to it' speech, but I paused for a second and thought to myself that the comment needed a little more attention. I'm not sure if I paused because I was offended by the comment or I thought my students should be offended or because I thought they needed to think better of themselves. Certainly, had I made a comment along the lines of "You won't get this. You're only students", I can almost guarantee I would have faced a backlash.
My response to the class was essentially the 'don't sell yourself short approach'. You're not ONLY students. You ARE students. You have endless opportunities ahead of you. We talked about how they were the future leaders of governments, corporations, industries, etc. We talked about competition and how in the not too distant future they would be competing for spots at universities and/or jobs and how they can't just settle for good enough. I mentioned that if they wanted to be as successful as they could they needed to work as hard as they could starting now. They needed to seek out challenges rather than trying to avoid them. We also talked about pursuing their passions. My message was if they didn't start now someone else was already getting a leg up.
In any case it turned out to be a ten minute discussion, which was much longer than I had anticipated. One of the comments I overheard was "Wow, a motivational talk in math. Who would have thought". I guess some of them took the message to heart though I'm sure some of them saw this as just a ten minute break.