“Think of the last thing you learned from scratch or had to do or figure out for the first time. Imagine that it is something you are not intrinsically interested in or particularly excited about. Now imagine having to do this in a room of thirty people who also don’t know how to do this thing. Now imagine you won’t be allowed to express frustration outloud or even stand up. If you have to use the bathroom or get a drink of water you will have to ask permission and it probably will not be granted. Imagine being compared to everyone around you while you are struggling with this new thing. Imagine you are not permitted to speak to any of them or help one another or smile at them. Imagine that if there is something you don’t understand you will have to raise your hand to be called on and it may not be. Imagine that you will only be allowed to ask a short, succinct question even if you have multiple questions or even some ideas about the thing. Imagine being told that you will be tested on the thing you are trying to understand the very next day and if you do poorly on the test it could negatively impact your future or embarrass you. Imagine you only have 40 minutes to learn this thing. Imagine that after you get through this difficult time period a bell rings and you have to do it all over again only to learn something else in another room with different people. Imagine there is no tangible remuneration or even a promise of remuneration at a later date for any of this. Imagine complaining about all of it and being told that it is all good for you and you should feel grateful.”
–Barrie Cole, Chicago performance artist
Not all schools are like this, and hopefully things are getting better all the time, but when I read this it reminded me of the importance of having compassion for kids.
Even in the best circumstances, learning is a vulnerable, challenging endeavor. Remembering how nerve-racking, emotionally demanding and intellectually tough it is to learn new things, day after day, week after week, is—to me—the most important thing we, as parents and educators, can do to help students succeed at their day job, which is school.