Glory lies in the attempt to reach one’s goal and not in reaching it.
– Mohandas Ghandi
“Now move your left foot over to the green one. That’s it.”
“Yup. Now hold that red one with your right hand.”
“I don’t think I can.”
“Sure you can, it’s right there. C’mon. You’re super close.”
The scene is playing itself during my last trip to the climbing gym.
One of the players is clinging to a wall 30 feet in the air.
Another is standing on belay, watching and coaching – her neck craned upward.
A third climber stands awkwardly harnessed, awaiting her turn.
None of the trio can be any older than 8 years old.
On my way to tie in on this my third trip to the gym, I stop for a moment to watch how things play out.
These kids are climbing routes graded well beyond those currently within my reach.
The thing that gets me and gives me pause is the way they’re working it all out.
The third has stopped walking in circles to turn and look up at the boy climbing. He’s hit a rough section and the girls below begin talking him through the next steps.
They speak with authority and support at once. Were I at the other end of the rope, I would know what I was to do and that those below me believed I could do it.
It is not until later, on the ride home, that it strikes me I’ve just witnessed three elementary school children holding each other’s life in their hands, trusting explicitly and working to accomplish something the average parent would balk at.
And, the next day, they went to school. They took their places at their desks or tables, to independent or group work. If they should happen to be in classes where more than the textbook and accompanying problem sets are expected measures of learning, still, those experiences fell short of the work in which they were engaged the day before.
At some point a teacher will work to explain to the children the importance of expository writing. He will use all of the words of the English classroom, throwing out “support,” “introduction,” “thesis,” and “conclusion” along with the other bests of.
And there’s a chance those children will struggle.
What I witnessed tells me they will work through that struggle – these kids are tough.
Still, it strikes me as wrong that these three should ever endure a lecture on supports or conclusions.
Let them, instead, invite their teachers to the gym.
Let them say, “This is where I learn.” Only, when they do it here, they call it play. As one panic-stricken teacher or another experiences a mixture of fear and exhaustion before reaching the top of a route, let the children say, “It’s ok. You can come down. You made it farther this time than last time. Don’t worry about how far anyone else made it. I’m proud of you.”
Let that happen.