I have been very lucky as an educator to watch over and over as students have "ah ha!" moments. These are the times when they finally connect the dots and understand concepts that were once puzzling to them. It is always magical and I always feel privileged to watch it happen. There are many of these instances that I think about when I look back on my career, but one in particular seems to stick with me.
I was a second year principal when I decided it would be fun to co-teach a pottery class with one of our art teachers. I have always loved pottery and thought this would be a great way to meet kids. Clay with Keough was set up as a "drop in" course, where students could show up if they were free during the period it ran. Business was a little slow at first, so whenever I saw kids "hanging around" during that block I would invite them to come down to the art room. I remember working hard to convince one young man that it would be fun (like playing with mud!) and that he really needed to give it a try. He did begrudgingly sign up. He was not a "natural" by any stretch and he had many a failed pots, but he kept coming back and kept on trying. A few months into the year he had finally completed a "pot" and had it put in the kiln for firing. He would check in every day to see if it was completed and wanted desperately to see his masterpiece in final form. Finally the day came!
As I sat in a very serious hearing for a student who had been suspended, the young man knocked at my door and charged in to say, "Dr. Keough check out my pot! It came out of the kiln!!" Being caught completely off guard but knowing how important this moment was to him, I had to stop to acknowledge his work. The look on his face of pride and gratification will remain with me forever. He was convinced that he had no artistic ability and was embarrassed by that fact. But, by the end of his senior year, he was enrolling in our highest level ceramics classes and impressing his teachers and peers alike.
Learning experiences like these are what we love to see as educators. We are able to watch kids struggle and frequently fail on their pathways to success. When they do finally succeed the joy is immeasurable. As parents, our work is similar. We have to allow our children to fail and remain always aware that this is an important part of human development. We cannot and should not be fighting for them to "make the team", or be "elected class president". They have to do this themselves and frequently will be unsuccessful. However, I would argue it is through these very experiences that they develop inner strength, independence, and ultimately, happiness.
Check out this article that speaks to this very subject. It is spot on!