Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Wall

I decided my senior year to play football on my high school team.  I had already lettered in baseball, but I wanted to have the experience of playing on the gridiron "for real" rather than in just some pick up games at the local park.  I didn't get to play much, but I sure did try my best to impress the coaches.

Until one day...

At the end of every practice we would sprint across the width of the field twice for one set and we would typically do 3 sets.  I was one of the fastest guys on the team, except when I was weighed down with the pads & helmet, then I was in the middle of the pack.  It was midway through the year, and I hadn't played much, so I decided to give everything I had on the sprints, and I mean everything.

On the first sprint, I finished around third.  I think my friend Fred and Tony Siragusa (a guy who played on the Super Bowl champion Ravens team over 10 years ago, he was freakishly fast for a guy his size, no wonder why he made the NFL) bested me.  On the second set, I couldn't keep up with the leaders, and fell back to the middle again.  By the third set I finished dead last, something I had never done in a sprint EVER.

But I was noticed.  The backfield coach came up to me as we were walking in and said, "Looks like you hit a wall out there".  The coach noticing me in the end didn't matter as I didn't get to play more, and my desire to try hard at practices died.

In education, students will all eventually hit "The Wall".  "The Wall" is the point when things stop "coming easy" for you and you have to actually read, do homework, and study in order to do well in a class.

(Except if you were like the guy in my history classes in college who could write letters instead of notes in Dr. Vos' class, and the answer the professor's questions perfectly while continuing to scribble down his thoughts in the letter, or yea, letters for you in the younger crowd was what we did when we didn't have email or text messaging).

"The Wall" typically occurs around 7th grade and it is no wonder why parents and kids alike say that 7th grade is the hardest year at my school.  It's not that the teachers are making it harder than in the other grades, its that the students' minds are transitioning from being concrete to abstract thinkers as well as the material becoming more difficult to digest.

Some would like us to let up and allow kids to stay behind and eventually boost them over "The Wall".  If we did that, when they got to the other side, they would see how far behind they were from others their age and not be prepared for the next "Wall" if one comes up.

The only way to get through "The Wall" is to smash it.  The problem is that this comes from within the child.  Sure parents and teachers can motivate the child, but the child has to find some intrinsic reason  to break through to the other side.

I always like to think that the games I do in class are like tools a child can use to bring down "The Wall".  Sadly, I also know that there are kids who just enjoy playing with the tools without ever "wearing them down" by using them to attack "The Wall".

Usually, by 8th grade, the complaints die down.  Again, its not the 8th grade teachers or coursework are any easier, its just that enough kids have gotten through "The Wall".

You may not hit "The Wall" in 7th grade, but you will eventually hit one in your life.

Are we going to ignore "The Wall" and hope it disappears?

As a parent, are you going to ask the teachers to remove "The Wall" for your child or be their biggest coach & cheerleader as they attempt to run "head first" through it?

As a student, are you going to give up and let "The Wall" defeat you or will you defeat it?

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