Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Challenging Myself and My Students

challenges I have really enjoyed reading the blog by Jessica Watson who is trying to set the record as the youngest person to sail around the world solo non-stop and unassisted. She is only 16 years old but way mature beyond her years. In Almost Around the Cape and Why I am Sailing Around the World?

from Official Jessica Watson Blog, Jessica writes

“When I first dreamt of sailing around the world, the first thing that caught my attention, was curiosity about whether or not it was even something that was achievable. It wasn't so much the action and adrenaline parts that appealed to me, but thinking about all the details and finding ways to minimize the risks. I wanted to challenge myself and achieve something to be proud of. And yes, I wanted to inspire people. I hate that so many dreams never actually become anything more than that, a dream. I'm not saying that everyone should buy a boat and take off around the world, but I hope that by achieving my own dream, I'm showing people that it is possible to reach their own goals, whatever they might be and however big or small.”

I think the thing that fascinates me is that she was willing to challenge herself and give it a try. I wonder what her parents are like and how hard this adventure has been on them. As a parent, we want to shield and protect our children from disappointments and hurts. This adventure goes way beyond your typical disappointments and hurts and could be downright dangerous. Yet, her parents were willing to let her spread her wings and were supportive of her adventurous spirit. This adventure took a lot of planning and coordination among lots of people in order for this to be successful.

I began to compare this adventure to the classroom. As a teacher, I too want to shield my students from failures and struggles. Sometimes I have to step back and let them struggle and face failure in order for them to grow but it is so hard! Sometimes it takes a team of people to plan and coordinate services in order for the student to be successful.

I also think I need to challenge myself at times. I need to challenge myself to look at the big picture and not just the little steps. In an earlier post I talk about breaking things down into little steps but I also need to be aware of the big picture so I don’t get bogged down just in the little steps. I need to beware of tunnel vision which could cause problems. I need to also challenge myself in letting my students grow. I need to not over plan for them but let them talk about what they want to achieve. I need to help them come up with a plan in order to achieve their goals instead of coming up with my plan for them. If they are working on my plan, then they aren’t necessarily achieving their goals but rather mine.

Sometimes my students may need a nudge to look for what challenges them. Like a baby bird that is afraid to leave the nest, they may be afraid to look for these challenges. As long as I let them stay where they are, they are comfy for the time being but they won’t thrive and become the independent person they could be. Many of their dreams don’t come true because they are afraid. I can help them overcome their fear and be their safety net. As they become more comfortable with experiencing new things, they hopefully will need me less and less.

I don’t think that Jessica just jumped in a boat on her own without any knowledge of what she was doing. She had to learn about piloting a boat and navigation as well as a multitude of other skills. This took time and planning so it didn’t happen overnight. I’m sure that she practiced these skills with someone who was experienced before she ever went out on her own. The same thing needs to happen with my students.

I think if I can encourage my students to look for challenges in their lives, face them head on, and try to make their dreams come true, they will be more successful in the future. These successes will help them face their struggles with more confidence.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'OGC poster'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/60364452@N00/345391868 by: Christian Guthier

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