Celebrate the UnExpected…

Just come in from a conversation with my Studio 5 partner – reflecting on our learners and their day. We’ve had some wins today…. and some of the learners in my CAR group needed those wins. However, in reflection, the real wins have not come from the expected learning.

B is organising a field trip to a local rock-climbing space. A few hiccups along the way with regards to risk-assessments being completed, bus bookings, invoice requirements (and the Vietnamese tax laws!) and parent permission forms. He’s almost there…. and the field trip is scheduled (and re-scheduled) for next week. The expected win was in his ‘inspiring others to rock-climb’, the unexpected win has been the coordination of logisitics and systems and B is now being an ‘expert’ on the paperwork, systems and oganisation of field trips.

T has been working over the past 4 weeks to improve his table-tennis skills. He has documented his journey through video and his weebly and reflected on progress made in his skill development. The expected win was the development in his table-tennis skills. The unexpected win came through his struggle as he navigated his way through movie editing software, learned that YouTube would not allow large files and thus had to clip and split files. Then discovered YouTube would only allow ‘royalty free’ music – and had to reload the music overlay. The unexpected win is that T is now an expert in this software and the process involved – and his confidence has gone through the roof as others are coming to him for help.

O is running a series of science experiments, is videoing and presenting these on her weebly blog. She began this process two weeks ago and was heavily reliant on the adults to help order equipment, set-up safety protocols, video the experiment, record and edit the whole process. As with any busy school, she then found the adults were not as available in the second week – and she was on her own. The expected win is a series of science experiments with reflections on her weebly blog. The unexpected win is that O has developed belief in herself and her abilities, has gained in independence, has developed video and editing skills and her confidence in herself has soared.

As my Studio 5 partner and I were quietly celebrating these unexpected wins, he reflected that we need to say “no” more often when our learners come for advice and help. This sounds a little harsh considering our role is to advise and support, but reminded me of something my sister used to say ‘Empower, don’t Enable”, and is very much aligned to what Stephen Taylor (@sjtylr) and Sam Sherratt (@sherrattsam) recently tweeted “If we want students to learn how to make decisions, we need to let them make decisions”. 

If we continue to hold learner’s hands, advise them every step of the way, do everything for them, and ‘rescue’ them as they head towards failure then how will they ever have the opportunity to celebrate those unexpected wins?  And after all, whose learning is it?

One thought on “Celebrate the UnExpected…

  1. Thanks Tania for the reminder that we shouldn’t be keen to jump in and “save” students from making mistakes. When they experience frustration and setbacks, allowing them that opportunity to overcome the obstacles creates more resilience and makes them more capable overall. This is more about the process vs the product. There’s a great quote from the book Empower by AJ Juliani and John Spencer, “What decisions am I making for the students that they could make for themselves?”, and I feel that these “unexpected” Studio experiences are prime examples of how we can facilitate these self-management skills by allowing them to experience hardship when acquiring new skills.


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