In What is Challenge? From Lisa's Lingo, Lisa Parisi shares a conversation that she had with her daughter. She shares,
“After we spoke for a while, I realized she and I weren't talking about the same thing and that made me realize that many teachers probably think the way she does. In her school world, challenge means work. More challenge means more rigorous work. I used to think this way. If a child was getting all 100s on tests, give that child more work.”
This reminded me of classes that I took in high school and college. The ones that I learned the most were the ones that challenged me not the ones that I seemed to breeze through. When I talk about being challenged, I don’t mean that I got bad grades and the ones that I breezed through don’t mean that I just got all As.
When I think of the word “challenge” I think of something that makes me think. It might make me feel uncomfortable or uneasy. Or it doesn’t come about easily. When I am finished, the final product makes me feel proud of my effort.
When I write something and I have to think about communicating what I want to say clearly, I am constantly reviewing and revising. I’m not just writing down the first think I think about and hope that someone else will understand it. When I reread what I have written, sometimes it doesn’t come across the way I want it to so I have to rewrite it. After careful deliberation, I will revise and hopefully write my position clearer.
When I am knitting, I like to follow a pattern that isn’t so easy that it is boring. I might have to reread the directions to understand it or follow a chart that makes me focus. Sometimes I might even have to ask someone for help or clarification. Sometimes that finished product looks more difficult that it actually was to make and it is fun to see other people’s reactions to this.
When I am creating something new, I enjoy following sequenced directions in order to end up with a cool finished product. This might entail following a recipe or just written directions but it makes me focus and interpret what is meant. It is not something that I could do blindfolded or in my sleep.
When learning about something that happened in history, I like to wonder why it happened the way it did. What caused it and what were the major results? I like to think about the major players that were involved and their importance.
When I read a book, I like to think about the characters and what I like or dislike about them the most. I like to think about the situation they are in and wonder if I would handle them the same way. Sometimes I wonder if something were handled a different way, would the results be different. If I could change the ending, what would I have done? Then I think about whether I would recommend the book to others and on what age level and why.
All of these instances are a challenge to me. I wonder if some of the assignments I give my students create the same kind of challenge for my students. I think the main thing I want my students to answer is the “why” question. I want them to know why they think the way they do or do the things they do. If they are just following others, then that reason is not good enough. Students need to learn to think for themselves but I’m not sure that as teachers, we give them enough opportunities. They are expected to recite information they learned and not question decisions that concern them. They don’t even know how to ask the right questions.
I want to challenge my students. I plan to have more open discussions and have them answer the “why” questions more than just the “what” and the “how” questions. I want more than just regurgitated information.
Do you challenge your students? If so, please share.