A PRODUCTIVE STRUGGLE IS WORTH ITS COST

struggling-ducklings1By Lisa Huddleston

I know. I’ve whined a little about taking two classes this semester in order to renew my teaching license. Sorry–but it has been quite a bit of work and everything hasn’t exactly gone smoothly and I really won’t need much of what I have been working to learn. Would you like a little cheese with that? Okay.

That being said (and still being absolutely true), learning is always a worthwhile pursuit. Even when I doubt I will be doing an Informal Reading Inventory or writing a unit plan any time soon, my classes have provoked me to wrangle with some interesting concepts and to synthesize the parts of what I have been reading and researching into new learnings that I can take away from my trials and travails.

Did you know there is even a term for this learning process? Neither did I until I heard it in one of my classes last week. It’s called “Productive Struggle.” Isn’t that awesome?  I can take that phrase and apply it to every area of my life. In fact, it’s almost worth the price of admission for the whole semester. Almost.

“Productive Struggle” is the fight to comprehend, to make sense, and to fit knowledge into the mental constructs we hold. When a struggle is productive, it is worth it. We remember the learning it uncovers. We appreciate the understanding it reveals. We value what our struggle has produced.

Everything of value costs somebody something. And the same is true of learning. Even when the immediate rewards may not be evident, the truly productive struggle is worth every step–or stumble–along the way.

What is your struggle producing in your life today? 

LEARNING LUST

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A basement treasure my daughter discovered  for her new house. Repurposed and lovely. (Photo credit, Sarah Essary.)

By Lisa Huddleston

I love to learn. Not just to get a job or to write a paper or to win an argument. I love to learn for the pure sake of learning itself. And I sense that that makes me weird in some intangible way. Whether that means reading an article about a new “favorite” author (Barbara Kingsolver in The Sun) or formally taking a class or two at a local university to renew a teaching license I will probably never use, learning and expanding my understanding of this world is vital to my continuing to grow and therefore to live. (Standing still is not an option on this spinning planet.) Learning is like food for my brain. Miracle Grow. Manna. Crack.

 

But lately learning has been less of a “buzz.” Yes, I am dutifully, even ploddingly, pushing forward. Reading new books. Pondering new concepts. Making new arguments and realigning or restructuring old thinking to fit with my new discoveries. And all that is good. Necessary even. But I can’t stop asking, “So what?” What am I doing with what I learn? What difference does it make to the world around me? What difference does it make to the world within me? I mean, if all my learning and searching is just collecting like the dusty basement junk I recently wrote about, why bother with it?

But I cannot stop. Like a hoarder I hang onto old bread ties of truth and pieces of butcher string concepts because these are the things that hold it all together. The gravity that pulls the pieces in rather than flinging me out into the cold chaos. Although it might be tidier to throw old ideas away, I find myself sniffing, circling around to revisit them, but in a different, older light. Dimmer or brighter, fading or growing, I cannot say for sure. Like deja vu but through 3-D glasses.

Recently I told dear friends that I had circled back to views I held when I was in my teens–that I now had the mentality of a teenager! All over the place and about a couple inches deep in any direction. They laughed, but I think some things I say just worry them. I guess I do sound as though I may be losing it from time to time. But that’s only because I may be!

And so today I am pondering Constructivist Learning Theory. Interesting ideas about how learners build their own meaning based upon previous learning constructs. I get that, don’t you?