In my classroom, there is a huge emphasis on allowing the students to struggle when problem solving. This frustates the kids, confuses other teachers/aides who are watching, and can sometimes create a state of chaos in our room.
Sounds like I’m a pretty rough teacher, huh? Either that or lazy. But trust me, there is method to my madness.
More times than not (in fact, I’d even go as far as saying every time), the students are able to activate their prior knowledge, use what tools they have, and communicate to solve whatever it is in question.
Do they arrive at the correct answer quickly? No. In fact, they may give me a wrong answer multiple times before figuring it out.
Do they make mistakes on the way? Absolutely.
But each time they make a mistake and answer incorrectly, they start to break through their confusion and travel THROUGH their struggle. They learn from each mistake, each wrong answer, and use that new knowledge to form a different conclusion.
By allowing my students to struggle (and teach them to embrace this uncomfortable feeling), they are able to approach challenges with a “you don’t scare me! I won’t back down” mentality. They no longer look to me to solve their problems for them, I’m simply a tool in which they are able to utilize when the time is right.
The past few days have been some of the worst I’ve experienced. To say I’m struggling is an extreme understatement. I alternate between intense panic attacks and brief (and i mean BRIEF) moments of realization.
I was explaining to my aide why I allow my students to make mistakes, share the wrong answers, and work through chaos and conflict. As I was talking, I was hit with a quick second of clarity.
Just like the kids, I have to embrace the struggle. There are mistakes to be made, wrong answers to be found, discomfort to be felt, and lessons to be learned in this terrible, awful, horrible, “swallow me up” state of chaos that I’m in.
Just like the kids, I will come out with knowledge. I will have learned the lesson and overcome an obstacle.
Is this easy? HA! My heart is pounding, tears are forming in my eyes, and I’m only half believing what I type. Do I want to be in this situation? Absolutely NOT. Do I wish that I could feel what I felt two short weeks ago? More than you can ever imagine. But I think I have to realize that this is where I am right now. This is the part I can “control.”
One of my beautiful coworkers dropped a card in my mailbox this morning. Inside the card she included this quote:
“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest of souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” (Kahlil Gibran)
There is much to be learned in the struggle.