We think it’s time we spoke honestly about education and the role of the student in it. For the past two decades, many so called “experts” have absolved students of any responsibility in the education process. From telling students they don’t have to do homework, to lowering the passing grades and watering down curricula and tests, and most egregiously, to contending that students are incapable of staying focused longer than ten minutes at a time, the student has been removed from education’s equation. We believe this egregious assumption has been mostly about those students “experts” have low expectations of …mostly urban street kids.
Many of today’s students have a very hard time having to overcome the difficulty that usually accompanies learning new things. Many just say, “I can’t do this” and quit. The truth of the matter is that everything is hard when you start. Riding a bicycle is hard when you start, so is shooting a basketball, tying your shoes or learning the times table.
Quitting because it is difficult or because it doesn’t come easily is NOT how learning happens. In fact, learning, much like being successful in any other endeavor you can think of, doesn’t start off easily. The beginning of everything is a challenge, a battle, something unfamiliar. When things are unfamiliar, they are hard. That’s just how things are, that’s how they have always been. The fact is that the more you become familiar with anything, the better you will get at that unfamiliar task and the “easier” it becomes.
We know this. We’ve seen it happen time and time again in classrooms. Over and over again, We all have had students complain that something we were trying to teach them, something with which they were totally unfamiliar or something they could not master in five seconds, was too hard for them to do or to understand. Often, those same students one or two weeks later were successfully completing those same tasks! They weren’t perfect, but they were trying and suddenly the task they simply could not do, was being performed by them.
When asked why they could now understand something they originally claimed was impossible for them to understand, if they are any smarter now than they were before, if they are now suddenly geniuses, or if we were doing things any differently than we were doing them before; almost without exception, those students say they aren’t any smarter now than they were when they “couldn’t” understand the work; that they didn’t suddenly become geniuses. They even said that the techniques and lessons weren’t any different now than they were before. In fact, they say that the only difference is that they are trying, that they are making an effort to learn instead of just giving up and quitting, and saying this is just too hard for me to do or “I just can’t do it.”
For us, the purpose of education in general and school specifically, is to prepare students for the world. Succeeding in the world will NOT BE EASY, it will not be watered down or sugarcoated, and there will be times when it will just be damned hard!!
If they are going to survive, if they are going to have success, they are going to have to fight. They are going to have to not quit because something is hard or unfamiliar. The fact is they won’t be the first people to battle or to meet challenges, and they won’t be the last. No one can succeed if he/she chooses to stop just because it is not easy or because it takes more than ten seconds to “get it.”
Sometimes you have to learn to “be comfortable with being uncomfortable”. It takes time and effort to learn to love learning, given the difficulties that may arise.
Like the epigram states, “ Not everything you work for you will get, but EVERYTHING you get, you will surely work for.” You can’t get anything you are NOT willing to work for. Whether you are a star athlete, an entertainer, a doctor, a teacher, a lawyer, a parent or a student- you cannot succeed if you stop just because a thing isn’t easy. The only way you can have any hope of success is to work your way through the hard parts. If you are willing to work through the tough spots, an amazing thing will happen- it’ll get easier, and once it gets easier, success will not be very far behind.
We guarantee it.