As a special education teacher in my classroom we talk about learning being uncomfortable, that it might be a struggle and it might make them frustrated – and all of that is OK. For many of my students they would rather look mean than stupid, or the learning is not worth the negative thoughts and feelings that come with a struggle.
As someone who has almost always enjoyed school, and intends to continue their education further – learning being uncomfortable is not a feeling I often experience. For me the outcome is almost always worth the struggle, looking stupid is just part of my every day life; and I am not stuck with an inner monologue that tries to convince me I am a failure because I can’t do something. Which is to say, it can be hard for me to step in their shoes and empathize.
Recently I did a 12 hour twitch stream as a celebration for the Legion raising a stupid amount of money for Extra Life and the Children’s Miracle Network. As part of that I decided to try my hand at chainmail, I had the supplies, I had watched at least two youtube videos and was totally sure I could figure it out.
It became rapidly apparent that I couldn’t.
I had know idea what I was doing, the pattern and procedure didn’t make sense, the tutorials were completely unhelpful. My friend Casey was streaming with me, trying to offer support and assistance, the Legionaries offered much positive motivation in chat. Which, while helpful did little to alleviate the feelings.
I was faced with that uncomfortable feeling: learning.
I wanted to have fun with the Legion while streaming, and I wanted to understand how to make chainmail, the two goals were not particularly compatible. The rest being that I grew steadily more frustrated, I snapped at Casey and generally was in a foul mood. I had to take many deep breaths to reset myself before moving on with the 12 hours.
I can say I handled the feelings of frustration better than my students might have, I can also say the experience gave me a reminder of what they go through every day. Feeling incompetent, not understanding something and having to do it in front of others is decidedly unpleasant.
It’s easy to forget that competence and mastery are not achieved quickly, and everyone needs to find their own way to push through the struggle. As a teacher it is my role to help my students find that skill, and it’s always good to remember that uncomfortable feeling.