My Novice Eye (and toddlers) Saved Me

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When tutoring in a college-level writing center, my main goal was to get students excited about learning. Three years of discussion revealed that a lack of creative freedom, security, and confidence during early childhood results in self-doubt. It pained me that these students — age 16 to 70 — lived so many years feeling inadequate before our session sparked a passion to learn.

I chased the source of their struggle and began working as a teacher assistant for a child development center. In the beginning, my self-efficacy was broken by fear of failure (blog post, blog post). Since I felt unable to positively contribute to others, I didn’t feel capable of teaching, so I solely spent time with the children. Let me tell you, it’s a joy and a privilege to be a novice — my environment was entirely new to me, as it was for my kids. Learning without authority or a preconceived agenda opened our classroom for exploration, trial and error, and discovery. We felt safe to think, combine, and deconstruct our little, big world.

Self-efficacy sprouts from an environment of compassion, creativity, patience, and security. However, self-efficacy needs something more to really shine: we need to feel responsible for our own growth. There is power behind constructivism (learning from experiences and ideas) and behaviorism (learning from positive and negative reinforcement), but, though powerful, behaviorism robs the responsibility of learning from the learner. It creates a carrot-and-stick mentality that leaves a person experiencing ultimatums, conformity, and exclusion. By practicing constructivism, we navigate a situation, develop a process, and arrive at a resolution as a team. (Most of this is a rehash of my recent youtube video).

I’ve always prided myself as a learner because I value growth above all else, but my fear of failure proves someone educated me using a behaviorist approach — and it stuck. I look like a learner, but I’m more like a conduit of information instead of a creative thinker.

I highly value ingenuity, but I wasn’t able to practice it before learning how to with these kids. What an excellent surprise.

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