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Permission to Struggle

I could sense this struggle was going to be an important one. And that it definitely needed to happen. I could also sense that the accompanying teacher was really curious about what was unfolding. And she was also fighting an internal battle of wanting to ‘fix’.

“For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.” – Henry W. Longfellow

This was during the first major challenge in our morning session on our last program day for the year. The Year 5 cohort got to choose who they’d undertake these set of activities with and were spread out in the hall in teams of 4. The teacher commented how interesting it was that a lot of the other groups had taken my advice of not necessarily choosing only their ‘best’ friends. But this group of 4 girls had and were recreating a pattern of rockiness that apparently plays out often within a normal school day.

“Sometimes in life, your situation will keep repeating itself until you learn your lesson.” – Brigette Nicole

As I walk around to each of the groups I offer some observations and then keep moving. The teams are so engrossed in what they’re doing, except one. A remarkably empathetic boy from another group goes over and tries to ‘fix’, but returns after he realises his attempts are futile. We discuss, the teacher and I, the internal battle she is having, stemming from navigating the busyness and complexity of ‘control’ within a school classroom environment.

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” – Frederick Douglass

The girls got there. Just. They brought what they’d built over to participate in this first group challenge of the day. But more importantly through having permission to struggle (with support around them if it was really needed) it set them up for the day that they ended up having. Before the second challenge all the students were given the opportunity to make any changes that might need to be made (the remarkably empathetic boy even went over and offered to switch groups with the girl who was struggling most). But they wanted to soldier on.

“What is the difference between an obstacle and an opportunity? Our attitude toward it. Every opportunity has a difficulty, and every difficulty has an opportunity.” – J. Sidlow Baxter

Now there was the beginnings of TEAM. All heads, hearts and hands were starting to come together. They encountered a stumble (metaphorically), took a few moments to regroup, and then resiliently went at this second challenge again, together. There was laughing. There was joy (even within the struggle). There was a new sense of what was possible. And then came the moments that reminded the teacher and I why it is such a privilege to be involved in the educational journey.

“Forgive yourself, you are not perfect. Show yourself grace, you’re still learning. Be patience, you’re on a journey.” – Unknown

Towards the end of the morning session we undertook a group reflection. Each of the participants walked the edge of the room searching for a quote card that resonated with them. This particular girl was drawn to one that made so much sense to her teacher and I from what we’d witnessed that morning. It read: “Only you can control your future.” – Dr. Suess. She was still wrestling with it as we discussed what it meant to her but I could sense that having to navigate the struggle for a longer peiod of time (once she’d exhausted all those established patterns of disconnection and disengagement) may have contributed.

“We learn the rope of life by untying its knots.” – Jean Toomer

As we played a very animated game towards the end of the middle session this girl was now radiating pure joy. The teacher and I both looked at each other and smiled, again remembering the privilege it is to witness the ups and downs associated with a journey of potential. We both spoke about how it’s not that she (or any of us for that matter) was now ‘fixed’ through the experience. Rather by giving permission for ourselves and others to struggle, asking for and giving support where needed, we remember and can practice effective ways of being and making a difference in our own and others lives. The struggle will continue. But that’s ok.

“Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.” – Napoleon Hill

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