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Leadership and Activism, Learning at its Best, Philosophical Meanderings, School Stories

False Limits

This title comes from the title of Seth Godin’s blog for today. I have his blog pushed into my email box (along with some others) because I don’t want to miss it. There are several reasons for that—

  1. It’s short and I can read it on the fly.
  2. While he writes it about “marketing, respect and the way ideas spread,” most of what he writes applies to education and I work it in my classroom.
  3. Phrases or pieces of his writing return to me throughout the day or week—his words resonate with me often.
  4. He makes me think.

Today’s is no different. He says, “I agree that you will never ship that product or close that sale or invent that device unless you put in the time and put in the effort and overcome the fear.” Time—effort—fear.

I have watched a group of kids for the past six weeks work on learning about LED lights, and how to wire them to work on the amusement park they have been building for a Student LED Design Challenge. This competition was intended for middle and high school, but I asked if my elementary gifted kids could participate and was given a yes. I have 10 and 11 years olds who KNOW they are up against kids as old as 18 or 19—but that hasn’t intimidated them.

I knew NOTHING about LED lights and how to wire them to work, so I asked some folks I thought might be more knowledgeable to help, and it’s been awesome for the kids to see us adults learn alongside them. It’s been hard sometimes to sit back and NOT make suggestions or share OUR ideas of how to organize or set this work up, and we’ve often wondered if it would come together, but the kids have pulled it together. It’s due shortly and the 10 kids who have struggled over the past 2 months to work through it all have created something of which they can be proud. They have set an example of enthusiasm for learning and creating so that other kids are coming in and asking, “Will there be LED Kids next year?”

These students are working to win. They know it’s a long shot. They know the prize is for the school and not them personally. But they have certainly put in time and tons of effort and they have no fear—not like the adults working with them. We adults certainly have had some trepidation about this effort, from the tools they needed (like hot glue guns, hammers, pliers, wires, batteries and other electrical components) to cutting a variety of materials with sharp instruments, to using a digital fabricator for parts of the scenery, to the massive amount of organization they have had to do. But they have shown no fear, having confidence they can use these tools, organize themselves, and make the products and compose the drawings and reports they are required to write.

Seth speaks to believing in people, and his insistence that “we all use this moment and these assets to create some art and improve the world around us.”

Kids generally don’t impose false limits on themselves if we  provide our students favorable conditions to be creative and work hard to produce something of value. Educators work to improve the world every day when we set up opportunities for kids to learn, to become more independent and to see the fruits of their time and effort.

BUT. . .

What false limits do we educators impose upon ourselves? Do we control  the context for actions for ourselves as we do for our kids? Does the context in which we work control US and our limits? Are those limits real or self-imposed? What are our false limits?


About Paula White

grandma, teacher, Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE), DEN STAR, Google Certified Teacher, camper, Gifted Resource Tchr, NETS*T certified, lover of learning


3 thoughts on “False Limits

  1. Good post Paula!
    I believe our restrictions are self imposed but fixing that or knowing how to is a struggle I work on every day. And over coming fear, fear of failure, fear of success..also a daily struggle!
    Thanks so much!

    Posted by bridgesburning | March 27, 2011, 8:17 am
  2. Hi, Chris,
    I believe our restrictions are often self imposed as well. I also believe we can’t envision what we want as easily as we think we can sometimes. It’s why conversations and thinking aloud with others is so crucial to growth and change.

    You’re right–it’s certainly a daily struggle, and one we need to be more conscious about with our kids, I think.


    Posted by Paula White | March 27, 2011, 8:29 am
  3. Paula- Love that you push your students (and yourself) to show that you believe they can do anything. I think kids too often shut down thinking they aren’t smart enough, good enough, popular enough to achieve things.

    Are you going to post images or video or blogs about their experiences? Or could we try Skype and have your students present their work to mine?

    Posted by Ms. DeSelm | March 27, 2011, 10:17 am

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