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  • Writer's picturewoehlckejohn

Work The Problem

As parents, we have many shared common life experiences. We’ve all changed diapers. We’ve all read with our kids. At some point in time, we’ve all said “Wow! I sound like my parents.” We’ve all learned of the majestic power we can wield with the all purpose response of “we’ll see.” The common experience I want to call upon today, though, is dealing with our kids' frustration when it comes to navigating the waters of education.

In our house, it started with Math facts. My wife and I are both teachers so, when it came time for us to captain our ship, we thought that this would be a breeze. She’s an elementary school teacher, and I’m a high school teacher. We would often slyly roll our eyes when parents would complain about doing homework with their kids. You’re laughing right now at our naivety aren’t you? You should be.

Despite being experts in the field, we had no idea what was coming until we experienced Math facts. No matter what we did, we couldn’t find a technique that would click with our daughter as she struggled to master her times tables. Frustration is as communicable as the common cold. Our daughter would sense our exasperation, and it would exacerbate her struggle. We didn’t have answers. All we knew was that we were lost and that we were letting our child down. The nightly battles with Math facts left us feeling like we were losing the war until I found guidance from the strangest of places, a docudrama about a very famous crisis.

I was flipping channels and one of my favorite Tom Hanks movies was on. Apollo 13 was a masterpiece that told the story of three astronauts headed to walk on the moon when a malfunction left them in jeopardy of never returning home. In one memorable scene, we see all of the experts back on earth at NASA command in Houston gather to come up with answers quickly that would bring the astronauts back home safely. The engineer, who I assume was the leader of the group, repeated this message numerous times in that meeting. Work the problem.

It dawned on me that this was the approach my wife and I needed to help my daughter overcome this massive hurdle that stood in the way of her success. Work the problem. We sought resources. We talked to other parents to try and discover other techniques that worked for their children. We turned to places like Khan Academy and YouTube that presented us with videos of instruction we could model and adopt. Most importantly, we developed a new-found patience created by the revelation that while “9 x 3 = 27” is second nature to us, it is not second nature to our numbers neophyte. The results weren’t “magic”. We didn’t snap our fingers or wrinkle our nose like Samantha Stevens and realize the intended outcome. We continued to grind. Encouragement replaced frustration and eventually we cleared the obstacle.

Most importantly, I had found my technique and my flow as the primary educator of my daughter. I would love to say that academic frustration never reared its ugly head again, but that would be a lie. If we’re being honest, don’t we really want that for our kids? We want them to be challenged. We want them to gain experience as problem solvers. We want them to experience levels of discomfort. It's in these moments where they experience the most growth. In many ways though, we flirt with disaster like Icarus flying too close to the sun. Challenge can lead to defeat. Defeat in school can lead to a “those grapes are probably too sour anyway” kind of apathy. Academic efforts become exercises in futility if the pupil refuses to engage in that process. As parents, we need tools in our tool belt to support and get our kids back on track.

Academic frustration didn’t end, but my wife and I were better prepared to deal with it. When Junior year rolled around, and the maelstroms of AP Lang, AP US History, and Honors Anatomy and Physiology merged to create the perfect storm, we were up for the challenge. I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard stomping feet coming down the stairs followed by pronouncements of “I’m done! I’m so done!” We would let her have her cathartic outburst for a few minutes because it helped her deal with the innate stress of being challenged. After a few minutes though, we shifted to a work the problem mindset. Where can we go to get resources to help you? What can we do to help you? Most importantly, let’s brainstorm together to unravel what you can do yourself to get unstuck and out of the weeds? Junior year ended with honors for my daughter, and I can proudly say that came from her and the determination that she found in herself. She uses this experience today to help her navigate problems. She will often present to us strategies and techniques she utilizes to be a success in nursing school. I’m not sure though that she even realizes these methods took root in her elementary school experiences, but her mom and I know.

GBO Educational Services would be honored to be one of your tools. (My friends from high school would quickly tell you at this point that I’ve always been a tool, ha.) We have created an extensive network of top notch tutors (many of us parents ourselves) who are ready to help you captain your ship. We can be your compass, your north star. To that end, we have more than doubled the number of staff members in our network. We have expanded what we offer to students. We have changed our business model to an all virtual platform so we are no longer governed by the constraints of limited office space for instruction. Most importantly, we are now crafted logistically to walk this journey with you and provide services all the way through the K-12 experience. Call us today! Consultations are always free. Let’s work the problem together and put your children on the right path for success.

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