This Week in NHD: The Wall

Student Historians will continue work tomorrow on their National History  Day research. We are at the point in the process that all of the students will experience frustration and a setback or two of various degrees. This is what I've termed "The Wall".

Creative, open-ended projects are messy. 

Project-Based learning is messy. 

One "correct" answer doesn't exist to solve the problem. 

The learning that takes place doesn't follow a prescribed plan and it's not linear. 

This is disconcerting to students, especially those that have found great success with traditional education. Parents and teachers want to help students but the best thing we can do when the going gets challenging for them is to walk our talk.

We consistently tell our students that we believe in them and in their abilities (and we mean it). We let them know we think they are capable of great things. 

It's our time to show them. 

We cannot rush in to "fix things", though, when the learning gets uncomfortable for them (and for us). I can feel the tension in the room when my students are challenged and struggle. I do not look forward to The Wall but I know what to expect and how to guide.

When my Student Historians get frustrated my role is to look them in the eye and remind them they have the tools to work through it. I can remind them of their research question, thesis, or interest in the subject matter. I can ask them what their Plan B (or C or D) is (and come back to them to check in once they've settled on a plan). 

Letting students wrestle with their challenges is a gift, one that will give them a tremendous sense of accomplishment when they have overcome The Wall and shown the grit and tenacity we know they possess.


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