The past month and a half, my 4th grade enrichment group has been working on creating a digital narrative. Students used an online tool to construct a multi-media slideshow presentation which featured a significant/memorable event in their lives. Today, we had our big premiere, attended by parents, grandparents, teachers and classmates. It was a lot of fun. And honestly, I learned a lot. So, here are the top ten life lessons from my 4th grade project…..
1. Creation requires chaos. In working through the chaos, we establish order and are able to bring forth a completed work of art. It’s kind of like dumping all of the pieces of a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle out on the table. It takes a while to organize, but we eventually get a system worked out and are able to complete the task.
2. Not having all the answers is okay. I’m a natural know-it-all. I like having answers. The problem is that when you have all the answers, you don’t engage in problem-solving. And if you don’t engage in problem-solving, then you’re not allowing yourself to learn. When we allow ourselves to say, “I don’t know the answer”, then we’re opening ourselves to collaboration which leads to entirely new ways of thinking and problem-solving.
3. Perfection is overrated. Or, as fitness trainer Jillian Michaels says, “Perfection sucks!” The reality is, no one is perfect. Therefore, nothing we create will be perfect either, be it a project, work of art, relationship, etc…. And that’s okay, because when we allow ourselves to be rid of perfection then we are truly free to create and explore. And on that note….
4. Seek to make mistakes. It’s in our mistakes that we actually learn. Making mistakes allows us to expand our thinking. Making mistakes forces us to do some problem-solving. Making mistakes leads us to learn. When we make mistakes, we gain understanding, and that understanding allows us to help others who might be struggling with the same situation.
5. Ask for help. Sometimes I think that asking for help is a sign of failure. I have a neon bright independent streak that runs through my veins. I say things like, “That’s okay. I’ll figure it out.” But really, I won’t. I need help. You need help. We are created to need help. Why do you think Jesus sent the disciples out in pairs? Why did Paul have so many companions on his mission trips? Because we need other people. We need help–both to give and to receive it. And when we ask for help, new solutions arise. We are able to go farther and be stronger when we share the burden with someone else. Two minds truly are better than one. That said….
6. Don’t rush in to “fix it”. Problem-solving is about learning and growing. So, if we rush in and try to “fix” someone else’s problem, we’re taking away from them an opportunity for growth. We’re robbing them of part of their journey. So, the next time your child is struggling with that homework assignment/project, let them be for awhile. Encourage them, support them, make them some hot chocolate and popcorn. But let them struggle. Let them think. Let them problem-solve. Let them do the work. Let them grow.
7. Keep focused. My oldest son is very easily distracted. I have to confess, he gets it from his mother. We see bright, shiny objects and are just gone. It drives my husband and my youngest crazy. And while I don’t think we need to have every endeavor completely planned out to the end, there needs to be something tangible we are striving towards. Research shows that students are more successful in school when they are keeping track of their progress. Likewise, we are more successful in our endeavors when we have something we are working toward. And, we need to keep focused on that. As the apostle Paul wrote, “We press on toward the goal to win the prize….”
8. Allow for flexibility. While focus is a key component of any endeavor, I am a big believer in the fluidity of life. Computers crash, people get sick, you have kids, the weather changes….life happens. And so, we need to be flexible enough to change with it. When change happens, which it will, we need to embrace it for the opportunity it is. Not to sound like a broken record, but when we allow ourselves to be flexible then we are much better able to problem-solve which (again) leads to growth and innovation.
9. Celebrate along the journey. While not every endeavor may end in success, it’s important to stop and celebrate along the way. Take some time to give thanks for the work that has already been done. Give God praise for the work He will yet do. Give yourself a pat on the back for meeting a goal. We always celebrate progress reports, even if they’re not “perfect”. Those progress reports represent hard work. And while the journey of learning is not over, it’s important to acknowledge and celebrate what has already taken place.
10. Pray without ceasing. Cover everything in prayer. Prayer is a beautiful gift from God, full of promises and hope. The day before our big project, the district’s internet connection was disrupted. One of my students asked me what we would do if that happened during our slideshow premier. “It won’t,” I responded. “I’m going to pray that all runs smoothly.” He asked me how I knew it would be okay. “Because,” I replied. “I believe.”
Blessings and Peace,
P.S. I was trying to think of a song that would be appropriate for this post. I thought of Alanis Morissette’s “You Learn”. I know, it’s not a Christian song, but God can speak through anyone, right? Happy Friday!