Sunday, July 15, 2012

Asking for Help

As many of my readers know, my daughter has been struggling through high school.  What I've come to realize is that she doesn't really have trouble with the academics.  She has trouble asking for help.  She has a dance audition coming up next week and is stressing out about it.  But she works at the dance studio.  I told her she has every opportunity to ask her instructor exactly what she needs to work on to do well in the auditions.  But she didn't.  Didn't think about it, couldn't do it.  Finally I went in with her and stood with her while she asked.  She got exactly the support she needed to keep going.

Asking for help seems to be difficult for many of us.  It means admitting that you are not perfect and cannot do it alone. And, in our society, we see that as a downfall. How many articles have you read about a "self-made man"?  No such thing.  

So I started thinking about the major aspects of my life.  What have I really done all by myself?  

Getting a job?  Well, I didn't know anyone who could get me in but I did know people who could practice interview questions with me.  In fact, we practiced so much that I think my husband was ready to hire me himself just to stop me from practicing. I did know someone who could tell me about the district. And I called her up often with more and more questions about the reading program, the philosophy of learning, the special ed program.  And I did find books I could read on the subject of interviewing.

Planning projects?  I don't do any projects without a collaborator.  This is a two-fold benefit.  One, I get to teach my students how to collaborate with others.  But also, when I have hit my limit, when I am out of ideas, when I don't know how to do something, there is always someone else to turn to.  Anyone who has worked with me, either in class or online, knows that I will often reach a point where I say it can't be done.  That's when I need help.  

Writing a book?  Well, I have a co-author, so does that answer the question.  Brian Crosby and I pushed each other.  I don't think the book would have ever been written if I had chosen to do it alone.  I needed support to keep me motivated and keep the ideas coming.

Running my classroom?  I have a full time aide in my room.  I depend on her to cover certain aspects of managing the classroom.  She is much better at organizing than I am.  She is also much better at dealing with kids who are finding it difficult to focus. I have no problem telling the kids to ask Mrs. Miller when they need some supply that I can't find.  I will even ask the children if I need help making decisions about which book to read, which tool to use, which project to work on after lunch.  And I'm glad I am not afraid to ask.

I think back to my early years in the classroom.  I wanted to prove that I knew what I was doing.  If I asked for help, didn't that prove I knew nothing and shouldn't have been hired?  So I went at it alone.  And cried a lot.  I knew very little and struggled to keep things from spiraling out of control.  It was only when I finally turned to another teacher for help that I was able to make it through. She helped me deal with managing my lessons, creating a schedule, and covering curriculum.  

What about high school?  My high school career was anything but stellar.  Why?  I was told often how brilliant I was.  It is really hard to admit you need help when you are supposed to be better and smarter than everyone else.  So I floundered.  And just stopped trying.  Better that than actually failing after trying!  If only I knew then what I know now.  

Nobody does it alone.  We all need help.  And, most of the time, all we need to do is ask.


Adam Dugger said...

Very thought provoking, Lisa.. We tell our students all the time to know when they need help, identify resources, and then do so without feeling inadequate, but when it is our turn as teachers (or adults even) we find ourselves fighting against the same forces..

Eric Johnson said...

Great post and made so with your personal reflection and connection to importance of asking for help. I'm going to share this with my son who is starting HS in the fall. I too often suffer from not wanting to look like I need help, so thanks for reinforcing that's its not only okay, but makes you better.