“I met the challenge and I succeeded”

As I was leaving the house tonight on an errand, I passed my neighbor on the porch.  He’s an older guy, late 50s or early 60s.  The years… hmm… have not been kind.  He looks hard-ridden and put away wet, as the old expression goes, and run down.  Normally he’s out on the front stoop of the building smoking a cigarette in a posture that suggests that it was a hard day, and he’s not going to have too many more like it before there’s a closed-casket ceremony at a funeral parlor with only one person attending.

Tonight he was more animated than I’ve ever seen him.  He had his cellphone out, and he had no cigarette in his hand, and he was overjoyed at whatever it was that he’d achieved, and he was shouting into the phone, almost, but joyously, “No, you don’t understand… I met the challenge, and against all odds, I succeeded.  I made it work.  Me.  I did it.”

I have no idea what he was doing or what he did to succeed — I was, as I say, on a somewhat urgent errand, and I didn’t have time to stop and talk to him.  But I think this is the essence of what we want kids to experience after a Design Thinking or a Makery experience: the indomitable joy and fierceness that comes from completing a project, even in the face of difficulty and indignity, and succeeding anyway.

My neighbor achieved that yesterday. What can I do to help my students achieve that sense of themselves tomorrow?

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