Learning Sucks

I’ve been thinking and talking a lot lately about the learning process, about how it’s messy and complex and you don’t always know where you’re going until you get there (or never…). I try to encourage students to be creative and playful, to go above and beyond and take risks in class even when they’re unsure. And that sounds all nice and theoretical, but the real emotional side of the learning process is that, at least for me, pretty frequently learning sucks. It’s frustrating to be a novice at something, confusing with all those paths to follow, and scary that you don’t know where you’ll end up. It would just be so nice to go back to the way things were, pre-growth (which in retrospect always seems calmer and more fulfilling).

Part of me wants to say “Well, it doesn’t have to be that way! We can scaffold the learning process so that students can feel confident and full of wonder and inquiry every step of the way”. More than in my teaching, I wish someone would give my life that same scaffolding. The last 6 months have been full of big changes for me, and even though I’m proud of how far I’ve come, when things are rough I still wish I could go back to the relative calm of the past. And I know the students at SLA Beeber have definitely been feeling the same way lately- we’re all growing and changing and learning, but don’t always know how or where or why. It’s tiring and draining and confusing.

But by trying to limit or sanitize the frustration and pain of learning –which is very, very tempting for me– I feel like something gets lost.┬áMaybe the question isn’t one of scaffolding away the frustration and suckiness, but rather creating a space that allows for frustration, with trust that students will push through their frustration to whatever unknown is on the other side, and which provides the support they may need to do so (…and of course, I need that same space for myself).

P.S.- Here’s a great article in which my amazing coworker Marina discusses what messiness looks like in Project-Based Learning.

P.P.S.- A friend just mentioned that her college’s slogan is “trust the process“, which is a much more succinct way of saying what I was hoping to get at here!

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