Graduation is a huge milestone. Leaving high school behind means breaking out of the imposed structure of one’s teenage years and forming one’s own life as a young adult. This is indeed an exciting time of liberation and self-reliance. However, cherishing this newfound independence too much may become a hindrance to future success. This lesson was illustrated beautifully by some grade four students with whom I recently worked:
I split the class into three groups and had each group stand on their own tarp. The class’ goal was to flip over their tarps without anyone touching the floor or using anything in the room to balance. After a few minutes, the class informed me that this task was "IMPOSSIBLE!" No matter how carefully they began to flip over their tarps, there just wasn't enough room for the whole group and someone always ended up touching the floor. The problem was that everybody had put their blinders on; they were all looking down at their tarps, unaware of the other groups around them. I asked the kids to stop and look around. They glanced up and a few kids noticed how close the groups were to each other. One child asked, "Can I step on another group's tarp?" And with that, the magical moment I had been hoping for occurred. Each group took turns crowding onto the other two groups’ tarps so they could flip theirs over. By reaching out to each other and sharing their resources, the class was easily able to accomplish a task that they had just moments before deemed impossible.
It is an ironic fact of human nature that we turn inward at the exact moment when we should be turning outward. Faced with a particularly hard challenge or trying circumstance, we put our heads down and attempt to work though our difficulties alone. We should instead be looking around for assistance. So while independence can be wonderful, it is sometimes not the most beneficial course of action. My advice to graduates is a simple phrase I often find myself repeating to younger students: When in doubt, ask for help!
Written by Shira Lurie, Toronto lead facilitator.
Dynamix: Team-building for Kids and Teens, since 2002.