“This is hard…”
The group looks at me, hoping I have answers to give, some ways to make it easier. And while we have been working together for the past ten minutes, while I have been coaching the best that I could, it is also time for the truth.
“Yes, it is…this is hard work but guess what? You’re doing it.”
They get back to work, we continue with our learning.
This simple moment together doesn’t fix the work that lies ahead. The hard work of understanding, of growing, of learning. It doesn’t make it less hard, but what it can do is make it easier to carry. Make it easier to stick with it, to try again even when it seems unclear, uncertain, or even just plain challenging. When we acknowledge that this work, whatever it may be, is, indeed, hard we are letting kids know that it is not that they simply don’t understand it. That it is not because they are somehow dumber than other kids, or less capable, but that instead, that all kids go through these phases of learning and that at times, the work is hard to do, to understand, to break down and carry on with.
So many of our kids who feel less than. Less than a reader. Less than a writer. Less than a student are not always acknowledged for the incredible effort it takes to learn. For the incredible work that their brain is doing to make sense of something that seems incomprehensible at first.
And so we must tell our kids that learning is hard work and mean it. We show our own struggles when it comes to doing the work by working in front of the kids rather than doing the work before they show up. We tell them when we are unsure, when we mess up, when we really have to break it down into small steps in order to feel like we are moving forward at all. We show them what learning looks like as an adult and then we remember to acknowledge the work behind their growth, no matter how small it seems at times, is something to be proud of. That in this moment, that in this class, they have grown as a learner, and that is something to be proud of.
The work we are doing right now is hard. Analyzing text is hard, even for adults, and yet at that moment, when we recognize that this is not easy work, we offer students a chance to see themselves not as students who cannot get it right, right away, but instead as students who are learners. And learning takes time. Let’s not forget that.
If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child. This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block. If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.