I have a new job. And I’m learning.
I love learning.
I wish I could say my students were all as equally passionate about the notion.
But the learning curve for some is steeper than others. I’ve noticed there’s a particularly rough grade for freshmen. Generally, though, the incline has little to do with what’s happening in the classroom. It’s all that other stuff.
Whether they fully believe it or not, they (and their problems) aren’t so unusual and they’re not nearly as unique and special as mommy and daddy have told them.
I don’t often offer up that reality-check, though.
The truth is that when they’re in the midst of their stuff, I’m right in there with them. I can’t trivialize the parts of school and life that tie them in knots. I get that in the moment, it—whatever it is—is the whole world. It’s inwardly turned hyperfocus on steroids, but myopically blurred. And even if my vantage point affords a clearer vision of where they stand and where they might be going, I can’t pretend to have all the answers. I don’t. For starters, I can only help connect the dots beginning where they are now. I don’t have the full picture, don’t fully know where they’ve been.
In spite of all they share—and they share a lot—whatever I learn is filtered through the rainbow prism of their eyes. That’s a bad thing. And a good one. Bad because it’s completely skewed. Good because it is fully their version of their own lives, the only one with which I really need concern myself. Their egocentric view helps me connect better to the tilt of their plane, helps me decide on how hard to push. I wish I could say the solution was as neatly set as a2 + b2 = c2. It isn’t. I have no surefire mathematical equation on which to rely. There aren’t any hard and fast rules in their simply complicated lives.
Instead, I puzzle together answers from questions they can’t always articulate.
What I do know is that before they can start the research or writing or—not often—math and economics, they need to clear some space in their brains. They need to start somewhere—maybe at the edges—before they can link pieces from piles of disconnected colors.
When I first started this job I didn’t know clutter clearer would be one of my roles or that my vision might help my students see more clearly. We work together, one piece at a time, and then maybe a step away. And then back—to see the picture slowly emerging—of who they are and who they are becoming.
We all start at the base of our own learning curves. How well we scale the peak and how circuitous our routes can be pretty varied, but there is no singularly right way. At least not from my vantage point.