Jun 8, 2011

Is it ever time to give up?

I had a student come up to me the other afternoon, after class, and earnestly ask me, “Should I just give up?”

He was talking about the course we were embroiled in.  He was talking about whether or not he had enough time to get the credit.

This isn’t the first time. In fact, this happens so often with our struggling students.  At some point in time, this year or last, they’ve been told, “Maybe it’s time to give up.” They’ve been made to believe there comes a time in school when their best isn’t good enough.  The pile of zeroes they’ve gotten themselves is too tall to climb. And I think, man, what a shame.

Despite my explicitly motivating words, “You can do it!”, the student walked away unsure whether the time had come to call it a day.

I addressed many of the same issues at the end of last semester in a post I wrote, Slogging It Out.

Yet here we are with students, who need more time to demonstrate the required outcomes, being told, implicitly as well as explicitly, you’ve run out of time. You might as well give up.


Separate, yet connected, I’ve been thinking alot about mastery. My own mastery and my relentless pursuit of learning new things, which I often abandon after a stretch.

I can strum a guitar, play a few riffs, sing a few campfire songs.  But I haven’t mastered it.  I don’t prioritize the time to really master it. So, should I stop seeking mastery?

My math skills are weak.  Not “can’t give you change” weak, but definitely there are no sine laws in my future.  There wasn’t real calculus in my past either. (This is an assumption that the sine law is connected to calculus, which I vaguely remember). I scraped through my senior level Math classes when I was in high school.  My brain can’t figure the figures. Why bother learning them? The amount of time that is needed to build that base knowledge alone.

At what point, do I not have enough time to learn something?

After trying something, struggling in the pocket of learning, at some point, is it alright to quit learning?  I don’t mean learning completely, just that little aspect of life you are trying to master?

Is this what this student is struggling with?

I’m wrestling with the ideas that I live a passion of learning, yet, I find myself hitting the wall of learning in various parts of life because they are too hard, too onerous, or just too much time.  I find myself quitting paths of learning all the time.

The student and I are struggling with the idea of quitting. No doubt about it, they are different pursuits. His for a course, a credit he must earn in an allotted time frame. Mine for a lack of passion, clarity, time, support, whatever. Yet, we both find ourselves asking the same question:

Is it time to give up?


I know I’m a little all over here. Thanks for following and reading. Comments / Responses / Answers are very welcome.

I am quite clearly not a master of anything yet, although I continue to pursue mastery.

Today’s Challenge: Go back to something I’ve quit learning and try again.

Tonight, I will pick up the guitar or maybe, just maybe, do a little trigonometry.


  • Good blog post think it has some good insight, and I can relate to it.

  • Thanks Alex. It is always nice to hear that my crazy thinking sometimes resonates with others. Thanks for reading.

  • Nice thought! It is really hard for students in such situations.Proper motivation are required in such situation.

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