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You’ve seen them and perhaps entered one; escape rooms are a current fad. They have popped up everywhere. I’ve had fun in two different rooms in two different states. In the first room, there were six of us, and we worked for the entire hour to locate and use the clues and find a hidden time machine. The clock ticked. We ran around the room, giving orders, taking orders, sitting down to think, wiping our foreheads in frustration. It was hard – a lot harder than we anticipated. We worked hard for the full 60 minutes… At 59:59, we unlocked yet another door and were sure we were there, on the verge of discovering the answer to the problem. When they opened the room, that idea was quickly shattered; we had only made it through about two thirds of the maze. Really? The second room was a similar experience. Six of us worked together to find a key needed to solve the mystery. The clock ticked, clues were provided and, again, time ran out.

You might think that not solving the mystery would have ruined the experience. Not so. We had so much fun. We thought hard and worked to connect the information we uncovered and find a solution. We worked together and alone. We used each other’s strengths to guide us toward our goal. When given clues, we quickly took the information and tried to incorporate it with the other things we knew and had found. But we failed. And we never gave up.

These experiences made me think about school. School can be very hard for some and not as difficult for others. At different times for all of us, it causes us to think hard, work hard, and try to connect information that we’ve learned before to what we are learning today. If we’re lucky, the schools we attend allow us to work together, letting others’ strengths support and encourage us as we learn new skills. We work together with teachers who send the message that we can do it and they never give up; they keep giving us little clues along the way to support us and challenge us further.

I’m not suggesting that school should be like an escape room. I’m suggesting that the attitude we bring to school, adults and children alike, should mimic the attitude brought to those rooms. It is one of positive outcomes, knowing that these are mysteries that can be solved, an attitude of grit and resilience. Just as we worked together to escape from those rooms, schools exist so children can gather the clues and learn the skills needed to move on and unlock future doors. They can do it with our support and willingness to know when to nudge them along, when to sit back and in establishing a supportive and strong community. We have the key.