Struggling with struggling…

There are lots of things that I’d like to teach kids besides how to complete the square or graph an exponential function.  Here’s what I’m thinking about right now…

How do I help kids be “ok” with struggling and (even better) see the value in the struggle?

I teach some incredibly gifted kids in Algebra 2.  Algebra 2 is HARD!  Some of them experience their first math struggles there.  Its a shock.  How do I make it better?

I tell them the stories about my own struggles.  I make the same goofy mistakes in class.  We fix them and thank each other for the help and move on – yet some still visibly hurt as they struggle.  I talk individually with them, break it down to a simpler task before building it back up, tutor, encourage, … still, I have some in denial and some in tears.  Hate that – which brings me to my next question…

How do I help them to learn to persevere past the struggle?  

I have to write those letters of recommendation that I hate to write and that I struggle with writing and yet I do them and make my best effort.  How did I learn that?  What makes me not give up?  What makes me say that I’d do it in the first place?

I think that I actually am a “people pleaser” so I don’t give up because I don’t want to let someone else down.  But there must be more to it than that.  Lots of folks persevere that aren’t just trying to make others happy.  Why?  How?

Again, I encourage my kids – lots of “I know you can do this!” – but I still have a few that find it hard to move beyond it.

So MTBoS, I’m throwing it out to all of you.  How do you help kids value struggle and persevere?  



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  1. Great question. I am struggling with the same thing, I am sure we are not alone. But getting students wanting to keep at a problem and not give up, how? I think it is different with each student. Looking forward to reading some of the replies from the MTBoS hoping to get some great ideas.

      • lbburke on November 30, 2013 at 1:43 pm

      Very true! Its frustrating to feel like I have to attach a grade to everything to get kids to do it. I love to learn new things – get a real rush out if it. Its a shame that the kids don’t feel that too.

    • Renee on November 7, 2013 at 3:44 am

    It’s so good to see someone online with the same struggles I’m having. Sometimes when I’m reading my Twitter feed, I wonder where teachers find the students they are talking about! There is so much about the culture our kids are in now that creates such obstacles to learning.
    Thank you for posting.

      • lbburke on November 30, 2013 at 1:42 pm

      Thanks Renee – yes, sometimes it is hard. I think teachers like to share positive things and shy away from the struggles. I think its important to discuss though. Not sure we’ll find answers but its helpful to know we’re not alone!

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