Tuesday, February 15, 2011

“Fly or Get By”

While reading the book, “Language Stories & Literacy Lessons,”* I was struck by a section on risk-taking. These researchers found that 3- and 4-year-old children were more “aggressive language learners” as they boldly tested their hypotheses about language use (reading and writing)...essentially to “make literacy fly” not just “get by” (p. 139). The result is that they “get themselves into more trouble, and...are more successful than their older, wiser, and more cautious literate friends” (pp. 139-140).

We’ve all heard the motivating story of Thomas Edison and his numerous failed attempts at inventing the incandescent light bulb. He’s heralded for not giving up, for letting nothing stand in his way of success! He once said, “I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.”** We all applaud and echo, “Yes! Never give up, never surrender!” (Don’t you just love Galaxy Quest?) Yet, when it comes to our own lives, risk-taking is less applauded. Possibly we are deterred by the fact that no one writes of the courage and braveness of those in the pursuit who have not attained success. Imagine the reporter in Edison’s lab after his 122nd failed attempt. Would that journalist have proclaimed him as a genius?
As I think about this new adventure, my journey to a Ph.D., I don’t feel much different than those 3- and 4-year-olds or Thomas Edison when it comes to risk-taking. I’m immersed in newness! Newness of thought, newness of reading, newness of writing. At times I throw myself into writing or research and come out on the other side with not much more than scribbles on the paper. Yet, I choose to celebrate each scribbling! I seek out people to provide input on how I can improve because I know that with each scribbling, I’m that much closer to success!
*Harste, J. C., Woodward, V. A., & Burke, C. L. (1984). Language stories & literacy lessons.
Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.