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Embracing the Learner Mindset

Ireally enjoy bowling as a leisure activity, but I am not that good. What a deceptive sport! It seems like it should be so easy, but it is not. What keeps me coming back? Why don't I just throw in the towel? While these are good questions and as the sport certainly isn't free, and takes up precious time the answers to this question are really important. I found myself reflecting on why I bowl while reading Karen Rinaldi's recent article in The New York Times titled “(It's Great to) Suck at Something”. She describes her obsession with the sport of surfing and I found parallels between her experience and mine with bowling.

I've always been interested in picking up new skills like cooking or playing an instrument, but always wondered why? Why does the vulnerability so welcoming? It hit me while reading Karen's piece that it is, in fact, a relief. A break from the ultra high stakes of life. A few fleeting moments where perfection isn't demanded. As she expresses:

If we accept our failures and persevere nonetheless, we might provide a respite from the imperative to succeed and instead find acceptance in trying. Failing is O.K. Better still, isn’t it a relief?
I think that this aspect of being a learner should be emphasized to people who are having trouble breaking out of their moulds. That way, failure isn't so daunting and may be acceptable. Here is the real benefit for educators- recognizing how failure feels for our students.

I think that an extremely important aspect of the learner mindset is to embrace the process, not the outcome. This is an ingredient I learned from studying sports psychology. It makes a whole lot of sense to me, easily transferable to any other aspect of life and growth. By encouraging our own learning, we can begin to understand what it is like for students in our schools as they navigate the process of building their learning capacities.

As Karen expresses so eloquently in her article this might just allow us to be able to have more perspective when dealing with our young learners.

By exposing ourselves to the experience of trying and failing we might develop more empathy. If we succeed in shifting from snap judgments to patience, maybe we could be a little more helpful to one another — and a whole lot more understanding.

So, my challenge to you is simple, choose something that you don't know much about and learn as much as you can. Keep a journal, talk to a friend about your trials and tribulations. Be sure to celebrate the little successes. All along, you will be experiencing what it is like for students in our schools as they learn and grow.

Reference: (It's Great to) Suck at Something Written by Karen Rinaldi, Retrieved: 5/1/17

About Jasper Sr.

Jasper Fox Sr. is in his fourteenth year of teaching science in New York State. An avid writer and connected educator, he maintains an active Twitter presence as @JasperFoxSR and writes regularly about improving educational practice to help all students succeed.

One Reply

  1. Great post. Love the idea of trying something you aren’t good at. We have to change the way we look at things though. If we are attempting something we stink at because we enjoy it then are failing when the outcome isn’t what we desired? I would say if we enjoy the journey we didn’t fail we just haven’t arrived at the desired outcome yet.