One simple problem occurred Friday in class. One of the table legs broke off. As I walked in to class, a small table, where two boys sit, was balancing books and laptops on its wobbly three legs. One of the boys was trying to hold it steady.
"The leg broke off," one of the kiddos said.
"Well, I guess you guys have to fix it, huh?" I replied.
"Can I do it? I can do it," a boy from across the room said.
"There are tools in the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet in the back, behind Owen's chair. Get what you need and make it happen," I told them.
And so, four boys got to work. They thought about using the hammer but then thought better of it. Pliers were the tools of choice. It was a tricky fix because the screw that holds the leg on to the table is at an angle and is very hard to reach. A couple of the kiddos figured out the best way to approach the problem, took turns wrestling with the screw, and finally restored the leg to its proper place. The table is now functional and all is well again.
Owen, Liam, Kaiden and Musa repairing the table
This is just one of those real-world problems that will occur time and again in these kids' lives. Instead of calling for a maintenance guy, I want the kids to rely on themselves first. I want them to think, "Oh, here's a problem. I've never dealt with anything like this before. Let me think of the best way to tackle this problem." Then, I want them to try until they figure out a way to solve the problem. Were these boys successful on their first attempt? Nope. It took three tries, each time attempting a different fix, before they got it right. They saw it as a puzzle and were motivated to solve it.
This is not an earth-shattering problem like world hunger or world peace that these kids solved. It was a minor inconvenience. However, the kiddos did what we all must learn to do: figure out a solution to the problem and don't give up until it's solved. They showed a lot of cooperation, they talked through the problem, and they never gave up. These are the qualities that I want the kids to show whenever they encounter a problem, no matter how huge or small.