"Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy." - Robert A. Heinlein
I sat in my fourth grader's school conference yesterday and listened to her teacher tell me about a project that she had completed with four of her classmates. He was expressing how challenging the grouping was for her, almost apologetically. "She worked very hard under not ideal circumstances..." Apparently, one boy had been out for a while, one classmate was not the best listener and another just gave my daughter a hard time.
"She persevered, and through it all, had completed a good project."
The teacher was happy with the final result, even though my daughter protested that she was frustrated and complained about the grouping.
"How wonderful that her group was not perfect," I replied.
The grouping of my daughter's peers was not "perfect" for her and that made the project challenging. My daughter had to call upon resources in herself that she might not have otherwise known existed... that of perseverance, overcoming frustration and working with peers that she found challenging.
It is these very challenges that will teach my daughter lessons that she will carry with her long after the school year ends. Resilience is a skill that will benefit her throughout her life.
In a New York Times article outlining Wendy Mogel's book, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, Mogel explains how parents are not letting their children handle difficult situation, rather they are making things too easy for them:
"Instead of being left to muddle through -- and to learn from adversity and their failures -- kids were whisked off to tutors and coaches and extra classes...As a result, they often didn't learn to solve problems on their own or gain the strength that comes with independence."
Maybe these are actually the best learning experiences for our children in a classroom setting, even better then being placed in an easy group to complete a project. After all, school is a great training ground for the real word your children will encounter.
It is my hope for my daughter that the times she is asked to look into herself and find her own sources of perseverance, resilience and independence are the times she is most proud.