This past weekend, I decided to teach our 15-year-old daughter Maddie how to mow the yard using our zero-turn-radius mower. We have a pretty large yard to mow, and it takes about three hours to do the job. All summer I've relied on the two older boys to take care of mowing the grass, but now they are both at college.
Maddie is doing a great job learning to drive, so I thought it would be no problem to teach her how to mow. She was very excited about doing it, and I was happy to have help so that I'm not spending three hours every week on this task.
Well, it didn't go as well as either of us had hoped. She had a little trouble at first getting the mower to steer in a straight line. And at times, she was missing sections of grass. A zero-turn mower can be a little tricky till you get the hang of it.
I was coaching the whole time. I would stop her and give her a little feedback, lots of encouragement, and even hop on the mower myself to demonstrate.
But in spite of my best efforts to keep everything positive, I could tell it was stressing her out a little. She was struggling. And I was just a few steps away when the mower hit a pipe right next to the wall. It broke right off. She was crushed. Her head dropped, and she looked so sad.
I tried to reassure her, but there were tears and she said, "I'm terrible at mowing."
I really felt for her. I explained that everyone is a beginner at first. I did my best to comfort her. "You are just learning. You're not terrible at mowing. You're just new to mowing."
I asked her if she wanted to take a break, and she said yes. I mowed for a while, and then she got back on and did fine until we finished. I felt it was important for her to get back on the mower, even after the accident. But I stayed with her the whole time.
As I was reflecting on this, I was thinking about how many kids feel like Maddie when it comes to school. They may be excited at first, but then it gets harder or doesn't go well, and they really want to give up.
Our job as educators is to stay at their side and help them. We shouldn't rescue them, but we shouldn't leave them floundering either. We have to find the right balance. They need support and encouragement, but they need to learn perseverance too. These skills will serve them well for their entire lives.
A few of our teachers participated in an externship program this summer with GOCAPS (Greater Ozarks Center for Professional Studies). The main purpose of GOCAPS is to provide intership experiences for our high school juniors and seniors. But they also have a summer experience where teachers get to work in business and industry and get a better understanding of the working world outside of education. It's called an externship.
At one of the meetings, business leaders were asked what schools could do to better prepare future employees. What is the one thing you wish your new hires could bring with them from their school experience? The response: We need people who don't give up easily. Too many want to quit as soon as anything goes wrong or gets hard. We need young people who can face challenges and keep trying.
In the end, I was very proud of Maddie for not giving up. She didn't enjoy mowing nearly as much as she thought she would. But she finished the job. Together we did it. And even thought it was hard, it was a good learning experience.
How are you teaching your students to be resilient? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.