In Learning, Struggle Breeds Confidence

In a recent meeting of my freshman Benedictine College Experience course, I wrote the words “Learning” and “Education” side-by-side on the whiteboard. I asked students to share a word or phrase that came to mind with those words.

One response stopped me cold: “Struggling”.

Struggling, not as in trying to complete an assignment, but putting effort into what might be an immense task, be it comprehending a math problem, sentence structure or even, “Who am I?”.

The word “struggling” fit in perfectly with my assignment for the forthcoming week, which lays out the elements of the learning process:

Can we agree that the process of learning is, at times, not the most enjoyable task we have to accomplish?

Yet, at Benedictine College, the quest to learn, as well as the love of learning, is paramount:

“We intend to establish a school for the Lord’s service.” Rule of St. Benedict, No. 45

Consider Benedict’s decree, intent, demand, whatever you want to label his words from Part 45 of the Prologue to The Rule.

  • We’re not here simply to “learn” something.
  • We’re not here simply to acquire skills to get a job.
  • We’re not here simply to make friends and, perhaps, to find a spouse.

If these means to an end are realized, great. But, that’s not our end-all, be-all purpose.

We are here to be determine how we are part of God’s plan for us.

I am reminded of the admonition from Joshua 24-15:

“…but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

Joshua basically tells his followers, if you wish to not serve God, but serve others, you go ahead and take on the god you recall from your ancestors, or are currently exposed to. But we will not. We will serve the Lord.

Our service is being immersed in learning, in the classroom and, really, in all we do. Our continuing quest for learning is constant. We are called on to “connect the dots” with the different classes we take; there is a connection to all our liberal arts offerings. The core requirements and electives are threaded together in a pattern of learning that meshes with requirements in your planned course of study.

The attributes of a learner is to not only absorb new and unfamiliar information, but to be ready to respond, either in class or on your own, to articulate past experiences that can inform what you are working on now.

You’re basically learning many of what I call “small bites of educable material” that you will keep and apply to the bigger and more rigorous subject matter as you progress in your four years here. You’ve signed on to a mutual commitment. We bring our “mysteries of the past” as described in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians to new and unfamiliar spaces, people, and places. Helping you to attain the tools to show how you move forward, confidently, is my goal as your instructor.

My prayer is that the student’s struggle bares fruitful knowledge and confidence.

Image: A student at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.

Michael Throop