Grappling is a fitting term to describe a process so necessary to the kind of learning that I’m interested in not only for myself but for others. When I think of my own grappling process I am also acutely aware of how painful this can be at times. With that awareness comes a growing ability to live in a space of inquiry and contemplation. This is helping me to not only tolerate but breath life into the ambiguity experienced during my grappling process. I don’t believe we invite or allow enough time for this process to unfold in children and adults alike in order for learning to be truly meaningful. Our need for immediate competence often cuts off what potentially could be transformational. Ultimately, creativity is compromised. From what I understand about neuroscience the validity of the grappling process is underpinned by data that demonstrates the development of the brain as a result of walking the maze, so to speak, in our learning. Accepting that what we thought to be true perhaps no longer holds water and then enduring the following uncertainty of not knowing is a powerful learning space. This is the grappling space. This is when new neural pathways are formed. The old matter is sheared away and our brain becomes more efficient. It’s an amazing process. So, why as educators would we ever want to rob anyone of this process by giving black and white information and answers or proposing one way of doing things. I think this is what I learned in class over the weekend. That a great curriculum evokes more questions than it gives answers. It gets leaners into a space of inquiry where we begin asking intelligent question about complex problems. This idea of grappling is so relevant for children as well. Take my son for instance, who is struggling with reading and writing. He needs lots of time to grapple and it’s emotional for everyone involved. His grappling process may take much longer than others but it, by no means, indicates that he won’t eventually get there. What I notice is that he is embarrassed by his grappling and his perception of himself as being less than and different causes him to cut off his own learning process and move into a place of defence and desensitization. He needs to feel safe in this journey and the resulting emotions that are evoked need to be invited and supported. It’s all part of the process.
I guess this leads me to some important questions. How as educators can we create environments for children and adults in which grappling is invited and supported….mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually? How can we make it truly safe to grapple and to allow the learner to be vulnerable, as it most certainly renders us. I reflect on the gifts grappling has offered me and how I too shrink from the vulnerability of this process as an educator and learner. Perhaps it is I who must be more open with my grappling in order to model this for others. Is there room in our educational system to normalize and celebrate grappling as opposed to pushing for performance and competence at the expense of the learner. Can we as educators be fully with our own grappling and the grappling of our students.