Learning is everywhere if you pay attention

Originally published in Flourish, April, 2013:

Learning is everywhere if you pay attention. At Trinity, we want every learner to know about themselves, the conditions that inspire their success, and the indicators that their struggles are worth it in the end.

Learning is – should be – reciprocal.  If I learn from you, then I want you to learn from me. Our mindset offers us the opportunity to have a broad view of our teachers.

Perhaps one of Trinity’s first graders taught the most enduring lesson I have learned this year.  Daily I struggled to accomplish a difficult task. (I was trying to work through a 10K training program.)  Many days, when I hit the first hill I would quit and walk.  It was too hard.  The distance was too long.  I just don’t run hills.  Yet, day after day, I would try again, getting more and more frustrated. Should I just quit? No one was holding me accountable. This was just a project that I started for myself.

Enter T, my teacher.  As I was walking down the hall, I noticed that T was working on a piece of writing.  To say it wasn’t going well would be putting it mildly.  He was frustrated to the point of being mad.

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“This is too hard.  I cannot do this.  No one cares about this anyway.  I am never going to finish this.  I have so much to do.  I can’t do it.  I want to quit!”

I heard my words in his words.  I knew how he felt.  What he had, however, was a strategy that I did not have.  I, too, had a strategy he did not have.

First, we shared what we could not do.  He explained the entire story to me. Including his strategy.  The longer he talked, the more he worked and the further he got on his piece.

“Miss Jill, I’m never going to finish this.  It is too hard. It is too long.  I just won’t get to the end. I have only gotten this far.”

“I have only gotten this far” is the key to the lesson.  T was charting his progress.  He was keeping a record of what he could do.  Wow! Maybe instead of focusing on the entire project, I could focus on what I can do now and what I should do next.  By the time T reached the end of his piece, he was telling me what he was good at doing along with the strengths and talents of his brother and his friends. I learned to not stop while pushing up the hill.  I learned to tell myself what I have done, what I can do now, and what I should do next.

Turn “I can’t” into “I can.” – A powerful lesson to practice at any age.

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