Lessons from Learning Support - Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.

Tuesday 19th June 2018

For so many of us, the idea of asking for help means we are dependent, weak, uncertain or unsure of what do to. It means we were not smart enough, good enough or worthy enough. So instead of asking for support, we try to do everything ourselves.

Barack Obama - 'Don't be afraid to ask questions.'
Barack Obama - 'Don't be afraid to ask questions.'

Let's evaluate why people often find it difficult to ask for help:

Assumption 1: It's a sign of weakness. If I can't do it on my own, I must not know how to do it or I don't have the skills or resources to do it.

Assumption 2: Allowing someone else to help me means I lose control of the situation. They will see my lack of ability, they will see  I'm not very good a this.

Assumption 3: If I ask for the support of others, I am burdening them. They are just as busy as me so how could they find the time to help out?

Being able to confidently ask for help is something that takes practice. It also takes a support culture of respect for each other.

A Wall Street Journal piece highlights a 2016 study by Saint Louis University researchers that looked at 414 university students in introductory science classes. Those who asked their instructors for help were more likely to get A's, but fewer than one in five students did so. Students who took on the "activist approach" were more successful. That meant they held themselves accountable for reaching their goals, so if they ever didn't understand something, they would ask teachers or classmates or seek out other resources for guidance.

One study by a University of Michigan psychologist found that as children got older, they became less likely to ask their classmates for help in understanding concepts. But asking for help can maximise learning, experts say. 

Here are some tips for students on how to reach out to others for greater achievement:

  • Use the Five-Minute Rule. You should ask for help from your teacher or tutor if you've been stuck on a question for more than five minutes and have made zero progress.
  • Find or form a study partner or group. A 2015 study found that students who gathered in groups and quizzed each other weekly achieved higher grades than those who used other study techniques.
  • If you're nervous about asking your teacher for help in person, email them. Remember to be specific in your request, and know that by asking, you're showing that you want to do your best.

There are many avenues to seek further help here at John McGlashan College. Here are a few thoughts:

Your subject teacher: The best tuition comes in the 3 or 4 or 5 hours you have in class with your teacher each week. Come prepared and focused to make the most of that time. Ask questions in class and chat with them after class. I have never met a teacher who is not prepared to help a student who helps themselves.

Tutorials: There is a long list of subject-specific tutorials delivered throughout the week. See the timetable here.

EXCEL Tutoring: This takes place each Monday in the ELC. It is a peer tutor programme, with older students offering their expertise to support others. Both support and extension tutoring occurs. If you are interested in finding out more, please contact Mrs Smith. 

Tried all this, and you are still not feeling confident? Chat with someone you trust. This could be a parent, your form teacher or another staff member. They might be able to suggest specific solutions for your situation or put you in touch with the Learning Support Team.

Mrs Smith

"Our prime purpose in this life is to help others And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them."
Dalai Lama
Barack Obama - 'Don't be afraid to ask questions.'