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Monday, April 30, 2012

School Bell: Celebrate Struggles: Reason # 2

Last Monday I posted about one reason to celebrate the struggles of schoolwork, particularly in middle school years  [hitting that wall when struggle, even failure, matter less than it will later].

Today reason #2 why struggle can be good:

2- Students who struggle learn strategies for overcoming challenges.

Struggle is good in the middle and high school years.  The child who has difficulty acquiring knowledge is forced to learn [or at least try] a wide variety of strategies for learning... flash cards, outlines, anagrams, rhymes, silly mental pictures, etc etc.  Compare that to the child who breezes through class, who seems to absorb the material the first time exposed. Some seem so lucky that they could pass [and do well] on the unit tests even without doing the homework. But is this lucky?  The parents get off easier, that is certain. But do the children?   

Children who never struggled in K-12  are often the kids at greater risk of doing poorly in college not knowing how to solve the problem.  Used to breezing through tests, or goofing around and only studying when it was time for the test, they may discover that it suddenly no longer works.  Or they may have been able to postpone a project or paper till the last minute and still pull it off and now they can't.  Or the information itself may not "stick" just by listening in class, or by reading the material quickly.  Suddenly nothing is working and they may have trouble even recognizing the train wreck coming, much less dealing with it.

The students who struggled at some point or through high school are not surprised or taken aback when things are hard. They have been there. They return to some of the strategies that got them through earlier learning challenges. These strategies are familiar, and many students even know exactly which approaches work best for them. They have tried multiple strategies for memory, for organizing, for breaking down deadlines, for seeking help, and for assessing their progress. 

when you are about to pull your hair at one more flash card drill, one more Venn diagram, etc., DON'T.  Hold onto the thought that you are helping them develop systems for dealing with learning that will be in their personal learning baskets for the rest of their lives.

Next week... Of course, there is a "but" to celebrating school struggles. If you shouldn't panic when your child struggles, what should you do?  And what are the inevitable exceptions?

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