Problem Solver

Problem solver. That is who I am.  That is who I am at the core of my being, of my soul.  I’m not sure if that’s because I faced daunting problems in my childhood that I felt compelled to fix.  Fix my father. Fix my mother.  Fix my sister.  Fix my family. Fix my friends.  Fix my father.  Fix my father.  Fix my father.  I was destined to be a teacher, a helper, someone to step in and find a solution. I became a learning specialist to help children fix their problems:  problems with reading, with writing, with numbers, with attention, with organization, and most importantly, with self-esteem.  I think I excel at solving problems.  I love problems and like the challenge of mulling over pathways that slowly materialize into solutions. 

When I saw How to Solve a Problem: The Rise (and Falls) of a Rock-Climbing Champion by Ashima Shiraishi, I knew I had to sit down and read it immediately.  First, because of the its problem-solving nature, and second because it was written by a teenage, female rock-climbing champion.  I couldn’t pass it up.  In his youth, my husband was a rock-climber, and we have spent many an afternoon watching climbers, both young and old, tackle the boulders and rock walls in New York’s Shawangunk Mountains (The Gunks). I was interested to hear about how this young athlete tackled her climbs.  Teaching in n girls’ private school, I knew that it would be a great mentor text for talking to our students about the importance of embracing failures and failing forward.  This is just what Ashima describes.

And so I started.  And so I fell.

And so I climbed again,

Listening to what the fall had told me –

Ashima  lives in New York City with her father, who is a dancer and her mother who designs Ashima’s climbing pants. At the age of fourteen, Ashima became the first woman in the world to climb the Horizon boulder in Mount Hiei, Japan.  She was the second person ever to solve this climb.  At the age of fifteen, she won the IFSC Youth World Championships for the third year in a row.  Throughout the book, Ashima explains how she solves the problem of finding her way up and across giant boulders. Untangling these boulder routes were very hard and she fell often. The falling helped Ashima to see the problems in a different way, and to finally solve them.  She has been climbing since of the age of six, and I believe there is no stopping her. She falls and falls often, only to ascend into greatness.

How to Solve a Problem

Take a deep breath in and out -
Slowly ask yourself:
Can I?
How about?
What if?
Why not?
Set your imagination free,
Dare to dream,
Invent and innovate,
Put your ideas into action,
Watch them take flight,
Watch them plummet
To the ground,
Pick them up,
Dust them off
And try again
And again, and again.
Revise them –
Add something,
Change something,
Take something away
Until it’s brand-new.
Put it into action,
Watch it sputter... pause...
Stop and start again,
Watch it take shape
And become the reality
Of your wildest imagination.

2 thoughts on “Problem Solver

  1. Thank you for adding the poem too! That sounds like an excellent book and attitude about learning. We need to fall more often to really learn, but I worry that we don’t let our kids fall enough.


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