In his book, Abba’s Child, Brennan Manning writes, “Hope knows that if great trials are avoided great deeds remain undone and the possibility of growth into greatness of soul is aborted.”
One of the great challenges of educators is to somehow encourage our students toward the path of great trials, to a place of welcome discomfort where their mettle is tested and their mental horizons expanded. It is our challenge to guide students into a place where the risk of failure is mitigated by the reward of growth and deeper understanding. I think sometimes the danger is that we so fear failure, that we continuously intervene, swooping in to save students from their toil and whisk them to premature safety before they have actually had the chance to dust themselves off and try again.
When our children are young, they will try just about anything in school. When a teacher asks a question, every child is ready to give it a go and share their best guess. But slowly, and surely they begin to learn that getting it wrong is not acceptable, and they become more and more hesitant to put themselves out there and hazard a try. This is, perhaps, the greatest tragedy of institutionalized education.
Schools should not be measuring devices serving to categorize students and quantify intelligence or aptitude. Schools should be living laboratories where wonder and creativity and experimentation flourish, where students understand the value of exploration and have permission to take an educated risk.
Albert Einstein wrote, “It’s a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.” As educators we need to strive to create an environment where curiosity not only survives, but flourishes. Faculty and administration need to be committed to designing a school where students risk the road not taken and move beyond the basics of rote memorization and fact regurgitation, to become intellectual explorers who seek deeper understanding. I envision a school where students and teachers come together as partners in learning and both hold each other accountable and hold each other up as we embark on a journey of growth and discovery. I envision a school where people matter most, and together teachers and students venture into the risky realm of discovery together in order to grow into greatness of soul.