The Value of the Struggle
I recently read an article titled, “Struggle for Smarts? How Eastern and Western Cultures Tackle Learning” by Alix Spiegel. The story focused on some interesting differences that exist in the ways we teach our children. It made the argument that Americans do not value struggle as a part of the learning process in the same way that Eastern cultures do. This quote in particular struck a chord with me:
"I think that from very early ages we [in America] see struggle as an indicator that you're just not very smart," Stigler says. "It's a sign of low ability — people who are smart don't struggle, they just naturally get it, that's our folk theory. Whereas in Asian cultures they tend to see struggle more as an opportunity." It went on to say,
“In Eastern cultures, it's just assumed that struggle is a predictable part of the learning process. Everyone is expected to struggle in the process of learning, and so struggling becomes a chance to show that you, the student, have what it takes emotionally to resolve the problem by persisting through that struggle.”
The idea that children need to learn how to problem-solve and how to stick with a task even when it is difficult, is something that Early Childhood experts have been talking a lot about in the past few years. We believe that our children need to have authentic experiences in which they get to explore problems and come up with solutions. This philosophy really drives our approach to learning here at SouthSide. The children are encouraged to ask questions and to investigate through project work. The goal is that the children are constantly searching for answers and solving problems with their peers and their teachers (as facilitators). If a potential solution is explored, but does not work out the children are expected to come up with another idea. Our focus is truly on the process, not the product. When the pressure of always having to know the ‘right answer, right away’ is removed, the children are free to experiment and to really think outside of the box. Not only is this when we see real growth and learning in the classroom, but this also when the children are having the most fun!