Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Challenge. It's not a bad word.

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I love my job. I drive 35 minutes or more each way in my gutless hybrid which does in fact get 40+ MPG going downhill. People often ask me how I can drive THAT far to work. But the commute may be one of the things that I love the most, even in traffic. Many a blog post has been composed in my mind driving up and down highway 50. I love the time to think, to reflect, and to dream. Today was no different.

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Over the past week, I have had several conversations with teachers about challenges and differentiation. In one conversation, someone shared that they were not having a 40 book challenge because it they didn’t want a challenge, or a competition. (Several classes in our school are having a 40 book challenge for the year in their classes inspired by Donlayn Miller, you can read more about it here). I came away from that conversation wondering why the word challenge seemed like a bad word. The 40 book challenge is just that- a challenge. I challenged myself to read 365 books last year, basically a picture book a day, and failed miserably by reading only 108. Did I reach my goal? No way! Was it a challenge for me? Definitely! When all was said and done, I read 108 books last year. I can live with that. This year, I set my goal at one more book than last year...109. And, now in the 9th month of the year I have read just under 40 books. I am way behind. But I am determined to find time to read. Will I meet my goal? I don’t know. But I am still excited by the challenge. Just like I know our students are. Will they all read 40 books? Who knows. But even if they don’t I hope they are excited about the challenge.

I love this quote by Edmund Hilary, one of the first to climb Mount Everest:

“I think I mainly climb mountains because I get a great deal of enjoyment out of it. I never attempt to analyze these things too thoroughly, but I think that all mountaineers do get a great deal of satisfaction out of overcoming some challenge which they think is very difficult for them, or which perhaps may be a little dangerous.”

Challenge is a good thing. 

Last week, I taught a writing lesson in a kindergarten class. I would just like to share up front that two kids cried during this lesson, one because he couldn't draw a 3D cube and another girl was frustrated because she couldn't spell all of the Disney princess names. I think I pushed them just a little past what they thought they could do. Am I saying kids should cry? No! But, eventually the little boy finally made a cube he liked and the little girl wrote the first letter of the princesses’ names and by the end both were very proud of what they did and smiling! 

List of princesses
The cube
I will never forget the sheer terror I felt before my first presentation, my first keynote and the incredible relief I felt afterwards when I had finished. I could do it! During my drive home today I couldn’t stop thinking about this video. This is how I hope kids, teachers, and all learners are feeling at the end of every day- when they have conquered something, anything that they thought they could not do. 

What challenges you? I believe in you.

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