The Value of Struggle

I had taken the back off my transistor rado any times. But, this time I was feeling that bit more daring and, armed with a small screwdriver I started to undo the screws inside the back that would separate the inside parts from the case. There were various bits and pieces that I really wasn’t sure about – not sure what part they played or their significance.

My aim. The sound had become a bit rattly in recent days, like something wasn’t connecting 100%. I was feeling very curious and pretty confident that I could get in to the connections between all the various bits, find something loose, make it tight and proudly gt to listen to all my faourite songs on the radio knowing that i had made the sound better.

An hour and a half later, I sat on the floor feeling a cold sweat creeping across my skin. This really hadn’t gone how I wanted it to. I had various ‘bits’ of the radio laid out on the flor in front of me, a little pile of screws to one side and the case lay forlornly at a distance. This was now the second time I’d taken it all apart and my actions were starting to get a little panicked. The first time I was calm, confident and assured – I now realised, too much so. When I’d reassembled, put the screws back in, slotted in the batteries and turned it on I felt a sickening in my stomach as there was no reaction, pin drop silence. The radio was completely dead.

I heard the call to go to dinner. I ate, but didn’t really taste the food as I was so aware of my guilty secret tucked under the edge of the bedspread so as to be out of sight. The jumble of electrical pieces that i no longer felt confident or sure how they were going to go back together. As soon as I could reasonably get away, I headed back to my room where I simply made things worse and became more anxious for another hour. This was a mess. I was filled with a sense of guilt. The reminder of hat a radio cost and how i would be held to account for a lot if this one was ruined for ever.

Bedtime came and still no progress. I didn’t sleep very well that night. Another hour of tinkering in the morning was enough to make me realise the unpleasant truth – I was going to have to fess up. I had no choice to ask for help.

The long and the short, it didn’t go half as bad as my fear had built it up. Yes, there was the usual dose of parental anger, but that soon subsided. A week later I was taken through the process of how the radio went together and hey presto, it worked again (and the insignificant rattle of the loose speaker was sorted as well). It had been an unpleasant experience, but, as i reflect on it today it contained so much valuable learning – learning that I’m just not sure children get today. I think as a result of this and other experiences I grew up more able to undersand that uncomfortable feeling inside when things are not going the way they’re meant to. I learned not to go at a task like a bull in a china shop, especially if it was going to stretch me at the limits of my knowledge and experience. I learned that there are times to rely on your own independent skills and times when you should tap in to the superior skills of others. I also learned that when you head in to something it’s a good idea to lay down a string so that you can backtrack out of it when you need to.

Today’s children are growing up in a very different world and, I fear, are losing out on a lot, including the ownership of one’s own learning. I was reminded of my experiences with the radio when i read this sensitively written article from a teacher (and parent) about the ways in which modern parenting and educating are removing children’s love for learning and making them passive recipients of learning – the most successful of whom get the biggest wins and successes in the academic game.

The Atlantic – The Gift of failure – A Fear of Risk Taking Has Destroyed Kids’ Love of Learning

I believe we can address these issues. I also believe that we we it to our children to be talking about these issues and the potential alternatives. There are solutions and, if practiced consistently enough, we can help our children to grow up curious, innovative learners.

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