Spend five minutes watching a child play a video game, and you'll see proof that kids crave challenge. I see this play out every day in math class.

There's a metaphor in Zen Buddhism of a traveler walking in a light mist. She doesn't even realize she's getting wet, but suddenly she's soaked. That's the kind of impact Writer's Workshop has on young writers.

If teachers make all the decisions, we rob kids of the intrinsic pleasure of making a choice. We also steal the learning that comes with considering thousands of possibilities, committing to one, then finding out where that choice takes you.

The question for teachers and parents is this: How can we cultivate that fusion of perseverance and passion? How can we help students to not just succeed, but to find joy in their success?

Marco moved from Cuba to Houston two days before summer school started. I asked the 7th graders to write about their goals for the summer program, expecting general statements about getting better at math or reading. Instead Marco wrote one line: "Yo quiero triunfar en este país." ("I want to triumph in this country.") Twelve years later, Marco's line continues to remind me how often we underestimate our students' vision for their future. His phrase "to triumph in this country" departs dramatically from the NCLB-era focus on "pick the right bubble" basic skills that a reasonably well-trained monkey could do. ...


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