Monday, February 24

Embrace the struggle

It doesn't take much imagination to sense what some of my students are feeling right now. After I've made them re-write the same assignment four times they are thinking (pick the BEST response):
A. I must not be a very good teacher if they have to work so hard to please me.
And perhaps that's so. But I ask for patience before you render that judgment.
B. I'm mean-spirited and that I'm picking on them -- trying to frustrate and humiliate them.
I've got too many other pressing concerns to waste my time doing that.
C. That they are terrible students because they have to work so hard just to get by.
Don't judge yourself so harshly. I spent most of my years in school thinking that way of myself. It's true -- I could be as lazy as you. And I often lacked the kind of focus necessary for serious studies. (I'm sure that if I were in school today they'd put me on medication for ADHD. I still struggle with focus.) But I want to suggest that by nature learning usually involves struggle. And that's because when you push yourself you are always going to be trying to do things which are too hard for you to do. Your weaknesses will surface. And you'll feel exhausted.

However, you aren't really learning anything if you aren't struggling. The struggle is good because in struggle you gain experience and develop strength -- which not only leads to advanced knowledge but also character. In other words, don't give up because it is way too hard or the teacher is way too frustrating or there are other things you'd rather do. Move toward the struggle rather than away from it. Embrace the struggle.
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