That risk is the risk of lessening our child’s love of learning in order to foster their love of achievement. Now I don’t think that there is anything wrong with fostering a love of achievement in our children, but I do think it is a shame to do it when it comes with the cost of dampening a love of learning. How does the expectation of consistent A’s take away from a love of learning? When a child is more concerned with getting an A rather than learning, they avoid taking on learning risks and challenges. For example, after giving my grade 7 students a list of criteria of what they need to show me they have learned for an end of unit project, I would often give them the freedom to choose how they would like to show me that knowledge and those skills. They might demonstrate their learning with an essay, a skit, a song, a poster, a chart… well you get the idea. There are many ways to demonstrate what you learn. Now this is a great opportunity to try something new. Very often my typical “A students” would stick to what they were used to, an essay and/or a poster board presentation, or maybe even a PowerPoint presentation. (It’s been more than four years now since I taught grade 7 so I’m sure that students would be more apt to use technology now than they were then.) More often, it was my typical “B” students who would see the project as an opportunity to test their hands in an artistic or unique manner of representation. Sometimes they would miss some of criteria for demonstrating their knowledge because they got so caught up with pursuing their project but they usually had a really creative and innovative project and often their projects did include all the criteria too.
Learning should be about trying out new things and taking risks. Often my daughter comes home with some lofty idea for a project that she is working on and I often feel dubious about what the results will be. However I keep my mouth shut about my doubts and stick to asking her questions about how she plans to do this or that. It can be tough to keep my opinions to myself. As well, it’s has been tough to resign myself to the idea that she might not get an A on the project if she is trying her hand at something that is not her strong suit. However her learning is her learning, not mine. I am grateful that she loves learning and she loves trying out new things and being creative. I want her to keep her love of learning strong and to continue to being willing to try, try, and try!
Learning is not about being perfect. There is a time and place for perfect presentations. It is a great attribute to want to do well. B’s are great grades too and if students can’t take learning risks in elementary and middle school then when will they be able to? I think that the years leading up to grade ten are a terrific time for children to try out new pursuits and ways of learning. After grade ten if does make more sense to treat school as a job. Although even in the working world, it is still good to be willing to take on learning risks and challenges.
Here is a great video that demonstrates the power of valuing our failures! It was also my inspiration for this blog post.