It may be surprising to hear this from a teacher, but what we learn in the classroom is important, but not nearly as important as the life lessons we learn from our daily experiences. Our mistakes, trial and error and our successes mold us into the person we dare to become. Everyone learns differently, and what one person may gain from a situation may be totally different from another’s.
We All Start At Zero
Everyone starts as an amateur. No professional athlete is born knowing how to perform their sport, nor were our most notable mathematicians born knowing how to count. Some of the most complex scientific theories started as just basic ideas. This is the same for the classroom.
All of our students, as well as our own children are not born smart. We all must start somewhere and that place is at the beginning. Some may progress faster than others, and that’s OK. Our innate curiosity and thirst for knowledge has led us to where we are today.
We have all seen that cute little toddler just beginning to learn how to walk. They crawl or scoot, pull up on an anchored piece of furniture and get so excited about their success only to fall right back down on their butt. Now knowing that they are capable of such a task, they try again and again (sometimes with much frustration and bumps and bruises) until finally they are waddling, walking and then running all over the place. It’s a small feat in the grand scheme of things, but it’s one to be celebrated because this milestone was achieved through experience, trial and error and persistence and not by chance.
Why I Will Not Tell My Children They Are Smart
Within my own classroom, I have been faced with students that just seem unreachable and perhaps just downright incapable of learning, but that is not the case at all, nor do I give up on them. They are intelligent and perfectly capable. What is wrong is what these students think about learning. Their perspective is skewed. Perhaps they had a teacher in the past that was “less supportive” or their parental framework at home is weak and less than ideal or the student lacks confidence due to pressure from peers or a disability.
“Miss, when am I ever going to need this?” asks one of my students. I politely reply,”Every day of your life. The knowledge and experience you gain here today will make you better tomorrow.”
“But I’m not going to college. I’m not smart enough.” says another student. “You are capable of learning anything. Some things just may be easier than others, but don’t quit just because you think it’s hard. You will learn more from mastering this one thing that you think is hard than five things that you think are easy.”
How Do We Support Our Children?
It is important as teachers and parents to support our students and children through the learning process of life while allowing enough space for them to discover their own path to the knowledge they seek. While you are helping your child with his or her homework and they are reading to you, do not be tempted to help them with a word they are struggling with.
Instead, encourage them to sound out the word phonetically, practice some wait-time and allow the child to take control of his or her own learning. Every stumble and wrong answer is helping that child to grow and making their brain stronger.
When they finally succeed on their own (even after much frustration), praise the child for achieving success on their own and not giving up even when things got hard. This lesson teaches the child that even in difficult situations, success is still within reach.