Asking For Help

Asking For HelpHe’d surpassed his frustration level. I was working with another group when I glanced over and noticed his head in his hands. He was desperately trying to cover his red face and the tears streaming down his cheeks. We only had a few minutes left in class, and he had been diligently working to map out his group’s reading plan for the next few weeks.

I’d provided a sample plan. We had twice discussed how he could pattern his group’s plan after the sample I’d given them. And yet, he was still confused and couldn’t seem to make it work. His partners weren’t helping much. He had enthusiastically taken the lead on developing the plan, and they had let him do it. Why wouldn’t they? He’s a hard-working student–an extremely “high flyer” in a room full of soaring stars. Having him in their group all but insures they will all do well. However, at this point he’d reached his limit. He couldn’t figure it out and was certainly not going to finish it before the class ended. Crushed and falling apart, he slumped in his seat.

I quickly made my way over to him and threw my arm around him. “Let’s take a walk together,” I stated as I instructed the class to tidy the room before leaving.

When we reached the small office next door, I said, “Talk to me. What’s wrong?”

“I can’t figure it out. I tried and tried, but it doesn’t make sense, and they were counting on me. . . and not really helping,” he admitted.

“Okay,” I said. “Don’t worry about the plan. I’ll be happy to help with it. It is really confusing the first time you do it, and I’m sure the example could have been clearer. We will figure it out, okay?”

“Okay.” He relaxed and immediately appeared relieved.

“Can I ask you something though?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Did you get the other guys’ attention, tell them you were having trouble, and ask them to help you figure it out?”


“Aren’t they part of your group, too?”


“Isn’t that what partners are for–to help us learn?”

“I guess so,” he reluctantly admitted.

“You have so much to offer your group. You work hard in class and strive to think deeply about our books. And I also appreciate that you want to lead your group, but leading isn’t always doing it yourself, right? Leading is inviting other people to help carry out a task and helping them do their best, too, right?”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

“You know asking for help is okay, right?”

“Well. . . I guess so.” He bowed his head as if ashamed to admit he might need help occasionally.

“I know how you feel. It’s a lesson I’m still trying to learn, too.”

Running Thoughts: Together

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Yesterday I ran my first-ever 10K race as part of the Memphis Runners’ Track Club Road Race Series. I’m pretty proud of the run. My official time was 1:00:04–not too shabby. (If you follow the link, I’m in the 40-44 age group. The paces are wrong because they are based on a 5-mile race. I’m not sure why.) My pace was just under 9:45/mile.

It was a beautiful morning. The weather was cooler, and the scenery at Shelby Farms made for a lovely setting. I ran with my friend Beth Nuthak again, and I was grateful to have a running partner. Beth had completed a long run on Saturday so she warned me she might run a little slower for the 10K. I told her I wanted to stick together, and we decided we’d try to keep under a 10 minute per mile pace.

The first mile was tough. The trampling herd at the beginning of the race makes it tough to set a good pace. We had to weave in and out of traffic on the narrow trail of the course, and we took turns leading the way as we zigged and zagged through the initial maze. By the second mile, we secured a little breathing room. I loved looking ahead at the spiral of runners ahead of us, and the lake was beautiful with a haunting mist floating atop the reflection of the rising sun. I had never run through Shelby Farms in the early morning, but I think I may make it a regular event.

After mile 3, Beth mentioned that she needed to stop, walk a little, and get a drink. She encouraged me to run ahead, but I was pretty certain I wanted to stick together. Therefore, I stopped too. As we ran, there were times when Beth seemed to propel me forward. At other times, I think I drove our pace. We worked together to make sure we stayed under our target pace. After mile 5, Beth wanted another break and though she encouraged me to go on, I really felt I was better off staying with her. I needed the push she provided.

The 6th mile included two big hills. We encouraged each other to the top of the first one. As we reached the ast half mile of the race, Beth mentioned that she was ready to push for the finish. Unfortunately, the last .4 miles were really tough. I had little left in the tank. I told Beth to go ahead that I would be just behind her, but I was fading fast. I took the last hill rather slowly keeping Beth in sight just ahead. I was not my fastest 10K, but I am with the result considering how last week started.

A current innovative trend in schools is using technology for personalized and adaptive learning. It certainly makes learning more individual, and I have no problem with either of these approaches. To grossly over simplify, personalized learning is tailoring to meet an individual’s needs and goals, and adaptive learning is attempting to achieve personalization by using interactive technology to modify instruction. I appreciate the potential of both approaches, and my goal here isn’t to push against their occasional use. However, I would push against the idea of using these approaches extensively to the point of overlooking cooperative and collaborative learning.

There is tremendous value in working together. Collaboration taps into a different type of accountability and motivation. Social learning connects us with other learners and with content in new ways. We learn to mediate relationships and communicate our ideas, understandings, and goals. We gain perspective, negotiate, and team to find the best possible solutions. We create learning within a community. While personalization helps one better himself, collaboration betters us all.

I like running alone, but I love running when I run with a partner.