Another family member has taught me a lesson about schooling. Last time, it was one of my daughters, Elle. This time, it was my oldest son, Sam.
Sam is five years old, and bright as can be. He just soaks up everything he hears and sees. He is already reading books, spelling, and doing math above his learning level. Some things academically are coming easy to Sam. So, I am glad he helped me make his bed recently.
My wife and I decided to wash the bedding for all of our children, and Sam was asked to help put his back on – like his older siblings. Sam’s job was to put his pillows back in the pillowcases.
This was not an easy task for Sam. He struggled to figure out how to get the pillowcase on the pillow. He sat on the floor and tried to push the pillow into the case. He stood up and tried to kick the pillow into the case. And he pleaded to his father to end his suffering and do it for him. (He does not have that type of dad.)
I told him to keep trying and tell me what he learned. When he became less frustrated, he was able to share that he could not get the pillow into the case by pushing it in. He stood with the pillow and the case and began to share back and forth while getting mad again. Suddenly, he noticed that some of the pillow was slipping into the case. Now, he began to jump up and down to get more of the pillow into the case, watching his progress with each jump. When the end of the pillow was completely in the case, Sam threw the pillow up in the air, and announced, “I did it.” The smile on his five-year-old face was bigger than his pillow! Sam proceeded to do his other pillow in the same manner with the same success.
After his bed was made, I sat there while Sam picked out his clothes for school the next day, and I realized that Sam had persevered. He had shown grit and determination, and he was successful in the end. I sat there on his newly made bed, and I wondered if I should have modeled how to put a pillow in the case or even start it for him. In the end, I am glad he struggled. Yes, glad. I want things to be difficult for Sam (some things) so he can know the depth of his resolve. I want him to know that he can struggle and still be successful. He should know that some successes only come from struggle.
I want the same for Sam in his school, and for all of his peers in the education system. We must have students construct more of their learning, struggle more to find success, so they can be flexible, adaptable and resilient learners.
If we accomplish that goal, we will truly have the learners we need in the future. Sam’s journey has already begun. I hope others help him struggle.