I have been reading The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. by Daniel Coyle.
One quote that has stuck out for me is:
The trick is to choose a goal just beyond your present abilities; to target the struggle. Thrashing blindly doesn’t help. Reaching does.
Targeting the struggle. Reaching.
There are plenty of moments when I feel as though I am thrashing blindly in my daily life. But, I think I have done a pretty decent job of choosing attainable goals, just beyond my present abilities. I am realistic, a realization I have come to over time, after years of balancing work, family life, and a chronic illness. After a long line of mistakes and hiccups.
Coyle wrote a blog post on unlocking improvement in December. In it he writes:
If we’re not willing to experience this social-emotional burn of awkward failure, we won’t improve. No burn, no learn, you might say.
He gives one suggestion for getting to this point of accepting awkward failure:
Embrace irrationality. Forget the notion of steady, linear progress, because that’s not the way learning happens. Learning happens slowly and painfully at first, and then with surprising speed. These big leaps don’t seem logical. But if you put the time in, they are inevitable.
I feel like I need to frame that last quote and place it in my office. It makes me think of all the students we encounter who surely feel as though they are thrashing blindly. The ones afraid to make mistakes. The ones that don’t learn in the logical, linear way our education system is designed. The ones punished by grading that doesn’t account for mistakes or the jumbled circuitous route that is learning.
I wonder about those students just on the cusp of greatness. Those on the threshold of realizing talent if only our education system would get out of their way and allow them to be clumsy and irrational, even reward them for it.
There is a certain beauty to reaching your goals, a beauty not often celebrated in schools.
It’s the beauty I find when I tackle a new yoga pose, balancing in a hot yoga room after falling over again and again. I didn’t thrash blindly in getting to that point. I was reaching. I set small goals for myself along the way. I forgave myself when I fell out of a pose or reached for the wall to hold me up, and even when I just stopped and regrouped. I targeted my struggle. I screamed at it in my head. And then it happened. I learned.
I want that kind of clumsy, expressionist, experiential learning to be rewarded in our schools.