Saturday, September 5, 2009

But it's HARD!

The first assignments are due on Tuesday, and the after school homework centers have been ringing with the proclamation: it's HARD!

Yes, dear, it's supposed to be hard. You're in 8th grade. It's Algebra. What, you think it should be easy?
Most of my students are tackling their most difficult assignments first; they are ferocious in their desire to conquer the Algebra and Physical Science, to prove that they can do it, to exercise their atrophied brains, but how long will the honeymoon last? Soon they'll start dropping off, deciding that it's not worth doing because it's just too hard.

Some of my favorite writers have described the writing process, and something seems to be missing: how easy it all is. Stephen Fry just posted a mini-blog about a looming deadline, and he, along with his gazillions of commenters, seems to be constantly surprised by how difficult it is to finish a novel. He quotes his friend Douglas Adams (oh, to have such friends!), saying "'It is almost impossibly hard, [...] It is supposed to be. But once you truly understand how difficult it is,' he added, with signature paradoxicality, 'it all becomes a lot easier.' " The "Why We Write" series over at Wordpress lists writer after writer who, like Fry, find their work as difficult and sometimes dreary as the most burnt-out Algebra student.

This is a long weekend, ironically named "Labor Day." On Tuesday, we'll all get back to the hard work of teaching students to work hard.

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