Learning is Supposed to Be Frustrating (a Reminder to Myself)

You've heard me write about it here at the bloggy bit.  You've heard Jon and I talk about it on the talky bit.  Every time I give a Gifted 101 presentation I mention it.  Learning is supposed to be frustrating.  I remind the adults that gifted kids don’t know learning is supposed to be frustrating.  Gifted kids tend to understand new information so quickly that they simply know it.  One moment they didn’t know it and now the next they do.  Poof.  And because this is so typical for them, they tend to believe this immediate knowing is learning.  Except it’s not.  Learning is supposed to be confusing and frustrating and you need to try and try again until finally you understand.  So, when they encounter real learning, they don’t really know how to do it.

Again, I talk about this over and over again.  And yet, I often forget that my kids’ learning is supposed to be frustrating.  For me.

I teach my kids something and then, for some reason, they just don’t know how to do it right away.  I’ve taught Chimp how to make a pb & j twice already, he should be able to do it on his own!  I’ve shown KBear how to hang up her clothes, she needs to just do it now.  I’ve told Cub to write in complete sentences, why doesn’t his essay have any punctuation?! 

As is often the case, knowing something in my head and being able to live it are two different things.

Also, I'm gifted.  And sometimes that giftedness gets in the way of being a patient teacher.  I remember "helping" my best friend with her Algebra homework back in middle school.  I put helping in quotes because I don't think I was of much help.  I probably just made her feel crappier and more frustrated and she still didn't understand it in the end.  Sorry, Jo.  She was struggling.  She just didn't get it.  I explained it.  She didn't get it.  I got frustrated.  How can you not just get it?  I explained it again.  In the same way.  She didn't get it.  I got frustrated. Rinse and repeat. When our giftedness simply allows us to easily understand a concept, it becomes hard to explain it in different ways, to be patient, to understand how someone else doesn't get it.

I've matured significantly since my middle school days.  I've learned new ways to communicate and can actually see things from other people's perspectives.  I have more compassion and understanding when my kids struggle to learn something and I try new strategies to teach them.  Most of the time.  Some of the time, that irritated middle school gt brat bubbles up inside of me and I just get so frustrated that we have to go over something again that is just so simple!

I am not a teacher by training, so this may be common knowledge to all of you who are, but I’ll share it anyway.  Listening to a speaker at an educators’ conference I heard the phrase, “I do.  We do.  You do.” The speaker then elaborated and said, “more accurately it’s I do.  We do.  We do.  We do.  We do.  We do.  We do.  You do.”  I’ve come to use this phrase as my mindset reminder and parenting mantra.

Yes, my kids pick up on some things very quickly.  In those situations they might jump from watching someone do a task to being able to do it independently immediately.  But, there are many things that they will not pick up on quickly.  There are many things they actually have to learn.  In those times I remind myself that we’re still in the “we do” phase.  I remind myself that I need to walk along side of them a bit more intentionally than I sometimes do.  I remind myself that just because they don’t need the we do phase all the time, doesn’t mean they won’t need the we do phase some of the time.  Closing doors, changing the litter, and zipping up jackets seem to be stuck in the we do a bazillion times phase.

At some point, my kids will be able to complete these tasks or remember these academic principles independently.  But, for now, they are learning.  And learning is supposed to take time and be frustrating.  And sometimes I’ll get frustrated by the we do phase.  But, hey.  I’m learning.