Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t waste energy trying to cover up failure. Learn from your failures and go on to the next challenge. It’s OK to fail. If you’re not failing, you’re not growing.
H. Stanley Judd
When I grow up, I’m going to be a teacher.
By definition, a teacher is someone who helps others do things they are not able to do on their own yet. Or, more specifically, helps others so they could eventually do these things on their own. The entire purpose of a teacher is to make herself redundant. What a career!
Since teachers deal with development, learning, and growth, the question of challenge is often central. In order to learn something, we must first face and recognize a challenge, then find ways to overcome that challenge, and then practice those ways so they become automatic.
The easy way out?
At the uni, there are different kinds of lecturers and professors. Depending on the tutorial group you’re in, you might have to do 15 hours of work or 75 hours of work for the same exact amount of credit.
Fair? Not really, no.
First of all, it’s not fair to the people who do the 75 hour work load for the credits, while the others get their degree with a lot less work.
However, I think the ones doing the 15 hour work load are getting unfair treatment as well. By letting the students get away with a minimal work load, the professor is not giving them enough of a challenge. As a result, they learn far less than the other group.
When the 15-hour students then graduate and get out into the real world, chances are they know substantially less than the 75-our students. As a result, they’ll have to put in more effort to learn the same information while working. For a job as gruelling as the teaching profession, it’s a huge effort to keep the lessons rolling while you try to internalize the more conceptual stuff you missed out on during your studies.
Of course there are those who celebrate the chance to sweep in easy credits and spend their time with other things. Personally, though, I’m grateful I’m in a group where the professor really makes us work for our credits.
By making us read the necessary material and report it in the form of practical tasks, she prompts us to try ways of overcoming this specific challenge before we submit anything to actual students. In the safety of the classroom, we get to give each other feedback and pay attention to the things that need tweaking. That way, we’re a lot closer to having these processes be automatic and effortless.
The Zone of Proximal Development
One of the big concepts in our current Finnish teacher training is the sociocultural theory of learning. From this perspective, learning is a social task that happens both within and between individuals.
For me, the most interesting concept of the entire sociocultural context is Lev Vygotsky’s idea of the Zone of Proximal Development.
The basic idea is that whatever you can do with help today, you can do on your own in the future.
The Zone of Proximal Development is activated in social interaction, which is a logical explanation to the old adage “Two heads are better than one.”
The challenge can’t be too overwhelming, or the learner cannot perform the task even with the help of a teacher or a peer. There has to be some challenge, though, for the aspect of development to activate.
For me, the social support zone extends to any other type of learning as well, not just to language learning. It’s easier to venture towards the outskirts of your comfort zone if you have support. You might need someone who already feels comfortable on your Terrifying Zone, ready to support you while you take your first tentative steps.
If you’re venturing on to previously uncharted terrain, that’s also way more secure when there’s someone there to hold your hand –even if they don’t know where you two are going, either.
And then there’s failure.
Which you will undoubtedly face whenever you try something you’re not already good at.
Edison is quoted as having said, “I haven’t failed, I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work”. The bigger the challenge, the more ways you probably need to try before finding the one that solves your problem.
Again, thanks for stopping by. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments, and until we meet again – keep catching those insightings!