Afraid to Learn

Stay focused! We all need this advice.

I went over to help Joshua. You know this kid. You know he will need a little extra help with a task. With organizing himself, with beginning, with persevering, with completing, with cleaning-up. Sometimes he needs a reminder to go back to his table (he’s visiting a friend.) He needs a reminder to hold the pencil, not flip it in the air.

I go over with my kindest approach. We get the paper turned the right way. I put my finger under the first word, ready to quietly read together. I look up. Joshua’s eyes are not on the word. They are anywhere but on the word. They are all over the room, looking for a friend, for distraction, for escape.

I am getting a little annoyed. I have other kids to help. I am here just for him. I will check back in with him. I want badly to help him be comfortable with today’s work.

There may be many things going on with Joshua, but I think one thing is that he is afraid to learn. If he starts working with me, he has to reveal himself. I will see what he can and can’t do. His friends might also. And after that? I will expect him to do more. And more. And more. It’s never going to end, so maybe if we can postpone the beginning…

I am feeling more sympathetic to Joshua since I realized that I am also afraid to learn. Afraid to learn Spanish. I studied Spanish in high school and in college. I have two children who speak Spanish, I have travelled in Spanish-speaking countries, and have hosted Spanish speaking guests. But I do not speak Spanish, more than a pinch.

I admit, I am afraid.

I depended on my daughter to interpret and guide us. Without her, I would be revealed. As one who is struggling. And if I speak a little, will people expect me to say more? And to understand more? And more? And more?

I am now working on my Spanish, studying a half hour every day. I am determined to overcome this fear and to be more independent when I need Spanish. I want to be brave, and to try. Once I open my mouth to begin, I know my limits will be revealed. But should I not expect of myself the courage I expect of Joshua?

6 thoughts on “Afraid to Learn

  1. Oh Joshua. May we love him, take a deep breath before we talk to him, and cry happy tears at the end of the year celebrating his inevitable progress. Thanks for sharing such a relatable post!

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  2. YIKES! I’d much rather label the fear of learning in my students than in myself. My fear is being stretched in learning how to do my finances better. Stocks and all that stuff. I could do it, I just don’t want to learn it. You are inspiring. (P.S. I have two “Joshuas” this year.)

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  3. Your line “afraid to learn. If he starts working with me, he has to reveal himself.”
    Is sticking with me…the idea of learning is the idea of what we know and don’t know and no one wants to show they don’t know it. I see this in MS…often ES came easy but suddenly the math or science or social Studies is so new that it is so hard so a MSer will be afraid to put in the effort to “get it”. This idea is helpful to understanding all learners. we need to conquer that fear, first.

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  4. You describe Jason so well, noting all the things he does like flipping his pencil and looking at anything but the work at hand. How do we reach a child who is afraid to learn – or afraid to reveal himself or herself?
    Good luck with the Spanish! Learning a new language is hard work and requires us to take a risk to use it.

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  5. Fran, this is such a touching post. Not only did I identify with you as a teacher, but I also identified with you (and Joshua, by extension) as a learner. We are all afraid of something! I, for one, am also afraid of my imperfect Spanish! I think you hit the nail on the head when you wrote: “If he starts working with me, he has to reveal himself. I will see what he can and can’t do. His friends might also. And after that? I will expect him to do more. And more. And more. It’s never going to end, so maybe if we can postpone the beginning…” So true of so many of our students, and of ourselves. Thank you for this!

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