(Please note: Neither of the beautiful ladies in the above picture is me)
For those of you who don’t know me, it may surprise you to know that I have varied interests. I’m a teacher by day and writer/actor/ne’er-do-well by night. People often ask me how I find the time to “do all that” but all I can say is, “I have to do it.” Since I’ve moved to London (for university), I’ve been involved in the local theatre scene. When I was in high school, I was involved in community theatre and I loved doing musicals. I was Dorothy in Wizard of Oz! This may not strike you as odd, given that Dorothy has the best shoes in the history of footwear. But I hadn’t done any musicals since I was nineteen. Then out of the blue I got asked to step in to fill a role in a local production of Chicago as one of the “Cell Block Tango” girls. Of course I said yes without considering how demanding the dancing would be. I’m comfortable with singing and acting, but dancing is something foreign to me.
My point: I am not used to struggling with things. Boo-hoo. Poor, Danika. I know. However, I suspect many of my colleagues were also successful students who didn’t struggle much with learning new things. This can make it difficult for us to relate to our struggling learners.
Well, I find the dancing in Chicago very challenging to say the least. I see what our amazing choreographer and dance captains are doing but I can’t figure out how to make my body do the same things that their bodies do. I watched. I concentrated. I listened. I visualized and I still couldn’t get it. I would go home after rehearsal and write down my own version of the choreo notes and practice over and over. I even slowed down the music using Garage Band so I could practice the steps at an easier pace. I am a motivated learner and I was still so frustrated I wanted to quit. My brain shut down and refused to take in more information. My anxiety level climbed. I got angry. I made excuses. I wanted to quit. Did I mention the wanting to quit?
I have a lot of new found sympathy and respect for my students who experience this frustration on a daily basis and keep trying. I’m not sure if I’ve learned anything more concrete than this, but I still think it’s an important reminder.
Have you had similar experiences? What these experiences teach you about your struggling students?