Just do it. It seems everyone has co-opted Nike's iconic call to arms. What is it about those three little words that gets the heart pumping or at least makes us feel a bit guilty about sitting on our butts and not doing “it”, whatever “it” is? Even I feel remorse upon hearing those words though I usually disregard (blatantly) anything anyone tells me to do. If someone says you should try...my automatic (but silent) response is “I don't think so.” The list goes on endlessly. When I do something, it generally has to be my idea in the first place. Is it my provocative and perverse nature peeking out or is it something even more basic?
There has been a lot of information and news floating around about education lately, from the accursed Common Core to Opting Out (of standardized testing) to something some educators are calling Grit. This was the latest NPR news story about education that I listened to during my commute one day last week. The whole idea is that if folks (kids) are going to accomplish anything they need to persevere through the hard parts and tough it out. In other words, stick to it, even if it is something they despise or at the very least have absolutely no interest in. They are teaching kids Grit in schools; it is the “newest” thing.
I agree with one part of the whole concept, if you persevere, you will find success. The person being interviewed was dead on with the first words out of her mouth. She said,"This quality of being able to sustain your passions, and also work really hard at them, over really disappointingly long periods of time, that's grit,". Yes! Amen! Then the story continued on to say we have to push and make kids do stuff they don't want to do, because it is “good” for them.
As I mentioned before, if someone pushes me to do something I do not want to do, I am going to darn well push back. Yup, quiet, shy, little ol' me. And, we wonder why some kids are acting out in school? Instead of finding and celebrating passions and interests, we are informing them of things they are not good at and making them do more of it. It has been proven in multiple studies, kids do not learn when they are under coercion. The one thing these kids will understand is that they hate a specific subject and in the end believe that they are either dumb or that education (school, learning, classes) is stupid.
Kids learn when they are engaged and happy. So simple, but yet so hard for so many who are so invested in our current system to understand. Yes, I can hear all of those “buts” flying around. But, my kid needs to learn math; but, she really needs to know how to spell; but, he really needs to understand how to write a cohesive essay; but, I really want her to get into a good college.
My answer is always, they will get all or most of that important stuff as they explore what they are most interested in. For example, I was talking to Bree and she said, “I hate math and social studies.” When I asked why, she told me that no one took the time to figure out how she learned math and they told her to “just do it this way”. And, she was totally fed up with social studies because “who wants to learn about dead people anyway? They aren't alive anymore, we are.” That conversation occurred the day I met her. One week later, she was on the computer researching photography and said out of the blue, “I want to learn algebra.” “What???” was my disbelieving response. “Why do you want to learn algebra?” “Because, I will need to know about angles and stuff when I am studying photography.” was her immediate reply. Bingo! This twelve year old is excited about photography; somewhere she read that she will need some knowledge about angles to be a successful photographer, so she requested an algebra class. Does it always happen this fast? Probably not. But in seven days, she went from “hating” math to wanting it enough to ask for it. Now, I need to find someone to teach this girl algebra. Any volunteers out there?
Building Rube Goldberg machines is an addictive behavior. We had talked about creating one for a couple of weeks. On Monday, for inspiration, we watched several Youtube videos of machines others had built. Elwood arrived on Wednesday and said, “I want to start building the invention.” With that one sentence, he instigated five solid hours of thought, experimentation, frustration and euphoria. We became so involved that he forgot to eat lunch and only realized it when his hands started shaking while trying to set up dominoes. At the end of the day, we filmed the machine in action, but it only completed the first sequence on its own. What you can't see in the video is my foot stamping in frustration which propelled the ping-pong ball on its way to the end. What you can't hear is my convulsive laughter as I rolled on the floor unable to catch my breath.
So what did we all do on Thursday? Yup, built another Rube Goldberg machine. See what I mean?
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DRC will be open Wednesday – Friday, April 16-18, during Spring Break. Join us for themed programming and tons of fun!