Why Life is Like Chutes N Ladders

Did you ever feel like you were completely unstoppable and then someone or something proved you wrong?  I had one of those moments this morning as I played Chutes N Ladders with my 4-year-old daughter.  She begrudgingly smiled when I climbed up the ladder, but squealed with delight when I made my way down the chute.  I tried not to take it personal and worked hard to model sportsmanlike conduct. Still, as the game continued and I struggled to make my way to the top, I could not help but draw parallels to life and the way that it seems to work.

I was speaking to a trailblazing woman yesterday about my students.  As I was speaking to her, I heard myself speak of my students’ spirit and resolve.  I talked about the fact that my students consistently motivated me to ask more of myself and as such, I often worked to push them to the next level. As I slid down another mental chute, I realized I might have pushed them harder than I should have.

Did they get it? Was I missing something? Why was I inconsistent in my ability to reach them? How could we spin the wheel and get to the next successful step?  Obviously, there was no clear answer, as life does not come with a manual that guides one through each day.  Instead, it became a matter of luck and perseverance. For while I had to continuously hope for the best, I, like my 4-year-old also needed to know what to do in case I never encountered another ladder!   

While more often than not, we climb ladders in our class, it seemed like lately we were encountering more chutes.  Recently, our program has felt like it has struggled under the strain of outside life. I could not figure out why, no matter what we were working on, we would land on the chute square, and make our way back to the beginning.    Understandably, some students are worried about their impending graduation, some are worried about the state of their parents’ marriage and some are worried about what will be their next meal.

As I continued to play with my daughter, it hit me. My students made it to class. Moreover, when they did, they shared their stories, they shared their hopes and they shared their fears.  As I slid down another chute, I realized I was too caught up in my chutes and not my students’ ladders. I was expecting my students to get to the “finish line” overnight and without strain or hard work.  I overlooked the lessons gained from each square and each day of life.

From an adult’s perspective, I think we need to reflect not only on modeling appropriate behavior to our children, but we also need to reflect upon the lessons that exist in the games they play.  While Chutes N Ladders can bring laughter and frustration, it can also serve as a great metaphor for life and all that it will present.  While it might be easy to walk away from the game, when we keep sliding down the chutes, it really is not about who wins.  It is about our ability to spin the wheel again, keep our head up and focus on the steps along the way. Eventually, we will get to the finish line, but that’s another story.





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