Success learning

I got the dreaded Friday afternoon email last week. “Your son had a rough week….” I hate that email. I always think that if, on Tuesday I would have known the week wasn’t going well I could have done something to make the it better. Son Number One is super smart but he can’t sit still and is too chatty for the classroom. Disruptive to himself and his peers. I don’t know if it is something we need to do something about or not, but we are, and we will spend countless hours trying to help him navigate the rules and structure of school because his behavior and his inability to control it right now will start taking away from his learning or at least the learning that he is supposed to be doing.

I was thinking about this when my class gathered again on Monday. I have fifteen people, several ESL, several who have never run a business before and several who clearly struggle with the traditional methods I use to assess them. I also have a couple who get it, without much help from me.   A typical classroom, I think. And the subject isn’t so hard, recipes, profit and loss statements, cost controls and people management. And since most of these people are New Yorkers, we talk about everything. I know everyone’s anxiety, their own test taking careers, how they dropped out of formal schooling to move to the US, and on and on. And a lot of them are struggling with my class. That is unfamiliar for me. And I think some of that has to do with their relationship with learning and my own dependence on what I learned when I studied to become a teacher.

I am also thinking about me. Obviously I learned things, but school wasn’t easy, socially and academically stressful and when I think about it, up until college, the people and topics that stand out are coaches, a band teacher and learning how to write cursive in third grade. Until college I was strictly a C student, I didn’t cause trouble, I sat quietly in class and just tried to get through. And I don’t know what was going on in my head or what made academic school so unmemorable and what clicked in my head in college, but when I figured out that English and art history were the things I loved, understood, and was really good at, things changed. And things changed with everything I have learned since. It is almost like I had to have learning success before I could learn all the other things I need to know. Success I didn’t feel until college. It took so long!

It is really complicated, this learning, and I wonder if we are missing something big. I am sure that my child, myself or my class of New Yorkers aren’t that unique. I can’t help believe that there isn’t something we can do better in the classroom, something we just haven’t figured out yet. Turn the classroom upside down, toss out a lot of what we have always done and try something new. Try something that would make sure everyone got a fair chance at feeling success, however that looked. Maybe that is too easy, or too hard. It is bigger than me, and probably a worthwhile thing to spend time on, for sure before the next Friday email and before I teach “how to run an ice cream shop” again.






Author: Eileen O'Toole

A quick service restaurant vet who loves food, teaching, learning and being a single Mom. Believes that waking up each day with a positive attitude and a smile on your face can change the world.

One thought on “Success learning”

  1. I think you hit it on the head: find something you like and can excel at and everything else follows. You found it in art history and English/literature/reading/writing. I found it in debate with a wonderful teacher/ coach. After that I became good at school in general!

    So, maybe the key is to find early one single thing you are good at and passionate about. Enhance ,emphasize and connect that to the rest of the academic world.

    L. M.


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