Accepting What Is

As a full-time education consultant, Allison Zmuda works with educators to grow ideas on how to make learning for students challenging, possible and worthy of the attempt. Over the past 19 years, Zmuda has shared curricular, assessment, and instructional ideas, shown illustrative examples, and offered practical strategies of how to get started.

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Self-direction is generally appealing to people in authority: growing the ability of your children, students, employees to identify and navigate a challenge demonstrating perseverance, flexibility, and ingenuity throughout the learning experience.

But on the learner end of it, self-direction requires acceptance of current limitations. The courage to examine what you currently don’t know or what you can’t do and be okay with that without unintentionally feeding resignation.

Acceptance requires bravery to be candid with oneself to examine and describe what happened without over-generalizing what it means for future success. Focusing on acceptance rather than resignation can unlock freedom, creativity, playfulness. When a learner begins to accept current reality, she can engage in constructive thought to play by trying a new routine or approach, settling into practice, sketching out a range of ideas.

This playfulness is characterized by a blend of focused and light-heartedness or effort and ease. The absence of high stress, anxiety, fear, and worry. As a learner continues to become more skillful and sophisticated in his capacity, he continues to gauge what is an appropriate next step that honors where he is and where he wants to head to next.

How do you recognize the difference between acceptance and resignation?

Acceptance describes an emotional state grounded in self-compassion and heightened awareness. Resignation, on the other hand, focuses on how one responds to an event, situation, or challenge.

Whether you are examining your own response or observing someone else’s self-talk, tune into the emotions being expressed and the inferences that are immediately being made.

Examples of Resignation:

  • “I am stuck. Again. That is why this isn’t for me.”
  • “I am anxious. I want to figure this out but I don’t know if I can.”
  • “I am struggling. I am working so hard and not seeing any improvement.”

Acceptance is honoring how you feel without an expectation that it needs to turn into a “lesson learned” or a teachable moment.

Examples of Acceptance:

  • “I am stuck.”
  • “I am anxious.”
  • “I am struggling. And it makes me feel sad.”

Maybe the best we can do for ourselves and for each other is to give space to the emotion without immediately overgeneralizing about the future.

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