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The College Conversation: Struggling is big part of learning

September 04, 2010|By Lisa McLaughlin

My 5-year-old heads off to kindergarten this week, and even though she's been in preschool and pre-K for three years, I'm a mess.

This transition is the real deal, and I'm beside myself wondering if I'll have enough tissues the first day.

She, on the other hand, is ecstatic. The thought of new friends. New clothes. What her new teacher will be like.

And, more than that, she can't wait to get back to school and learn. The Montessori school that she attended for three years called the time when students were focusing on academics "work," so she's really excited for new "work."

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I've seen how she gets lost in something she's working on — molding Play-Doh, flipping pages of books and pretending her stuffed animals are having deep conversations.

There are times when she certainly struggles. A book gets tossed across the room, a foot or both get stomped, a toy is thrown off her bed. As I help her work through her confusion and frustration, I try to be patient, knowing this is a normal aspect of her human development.

Giving up is not the answer. She's a sponge right now, asking tons of questions, and as I watch her excitement anticipating the days ahead, I can't help but contrast this to the feelings of the high school students who I spend my time with at "work."

As I speak to clients about their upcoming academic year, many already feel overwhelmed. I rarely hear students excited and curious about the new courses they're about to tackle. Instead, many fear that next year is going to be just plain "hard."

Is school really that tough or have students forgotten what learning is about in the first place?

Here's what I tell students:

What you are learning in school should not come to you easily. For the elite few, it just does, and lucky them. You know who I am referring to: your friends who never need to study and still get A's in the toughest courses, the ones who cram really hard for large projects and still pull off perfection.

Let's be real. How many of those teens do you really know? Not many. Across the board, most students need to study, use time management and work hard to earn good grades. Learning, for most of us, is a process and will prove over and over again to be challenging.

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