This blog post from Seth Godin came at the perfect time this week:
Respect difficult problems
They’re difficult because they resist simple solutions. Glib answers and over-simplification have been tried before, and failed.
People have tried all of the obvious solutions. They haven’t worked. That’s why we’ve resorted to calling them difficult problems.
Difficult problems require emotional labor, approaches that feel risky and methods that might not work. They reward patience, nuance and guts, and they will fight off brute force all day long.
Every carefully chosen word of this short post spoke right to my heart and my head. We all face difficult problems and we all battle one of the challenges of difficult problems–searching for quick fixes. We are tempted to rush around slapping the nearest band-aide on the problem. However, as Seth writes, difficult problems do not respond to quick or simple answers.
As I read Seth’s words, I applied to them our students who have faced trauma or who are currently facing trauma. We know that the obvious solutions are not working for these children. The strategies we have used for years and years just aren’t effective anymore.
Ah, didn’t Seth hit the nail on the head when he said that, “Difficult problems require emotional labor…”. The emotional labor is likely the hardest thing we deal with when supporting our students who have experienced trauma. We feel with them, we want to protect them, we want to heal their emotional wounds, we want them to learn. When we cannot easily fix things for our students, we feel like failures.
The patience required to solve difficult problems is also a challenge because educators have servant hearts and our hearts break when we cannot quickly fix a problem for our students. But, as Seth wrote, difficult problems “reward patience, nuance and guts, and they will fight off brute force all day.”
We cannot squeeze the square peg of students who have experienced trauma into the round hole of our educational system. We will fail all day long. So, what can we do?
- Love all our students, especially the ones with prickly behavior. They need our love the most but don’t know how to get it in a socially acceptable way yet.
- Start each day anew, making sure not to take student behavior personally.
- Lean on your team, not just for sharing frustration, but for filling your soul also. Make sure to take time to play and have fun even when facing a difficult problem. Your tribe can also be great resources for ideas.
- Let go when you can. Difficult problems can be all-encompassing. It is okay to let go of thinking about the problem when you are able. Thinking about it all the time can work against us, leaving us feeling even more frustrated and impatient.
- Couple clear, consistent procedures and routines with frequent positive feedback. Some students are feeling so badly about themselves that they need as much positive feedback as we can give them, 10-20 times per day even. Once we help students feel better about themselves and have established a pattern of success in the classroom, we can begin to wean them off the intense positive feedback and teach them intrinsic motivation.
- Give yourself grace. We are all in this together, you are not alone. We are doing the best we can everyday and the only thing we can do is learn and grow and face the new day just a little bit better.
Thank you Seth Godin for the inspiring and thought-provoking post. What have you found to work well to support students who have face trauma? Please let us learn from you by sharing your ideas in the comments.
We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. -Albert Einstein