When the world says, “Give up,”
Hope whispers, “Try it one more time.”
When you work with a population of students who struggle with learning, the word perseverance is often part of the back channels of conversation….Where did it go? Can we foster it? How do we build it? This really happens with all learners, but when you work with students with learning differences, it is poignant.
Working in a school designed for dyslexic students (I use the term dyslexic/dyslexia to be inclusive of all language based learning disabilities as well as ADD, ADHD, Executive Dysfunction, and Processing Disorders) we are familiar with rebuilding perseverance within these learners. They often come in broken and suffering from days, weeks, and years of struggling with what they see as failure. As educators we work to build their skills, their successes, their ability to see the capability that lies within.
This school year there have been some exciting examples in our building within the realm of perseverance. On the surface they do not stand out as such, but they hold more to them than face value. The last few weeks our students have been engaging with the #hourofcode activities. These activities are designed to give students exposure to the wonders of programming. When this was first introduced to the staff, it was challenging, and daunting….but when you first introduce it to students, it is a place to say go play, go try, go figure out without the trials and tribulations of academics. It has been interesting to see how our students engage with that. Some love the opportunity to explore and engage without direction, without the need to fear failure….they persevere…This has given me a lot of thought as with each subsequent introduction of these activities to students, they seem to gain the ability to try…TRY!
Also this year we are lucky enough to have a neighbor who wanted to incorporate our students into the Maker Movement, we have Makers-in-Training (MIT). These students are facing the challenge to build a 20 foot scaled model of the boat, the Atlantic, a boat that won the America’s Cup. This is an amazing undertaking where students will be learning new skills, new terms, new abilities that will culminate in an outstanding production that will be entered in the local Maker Faire. This is a lengthy project that has possibilities…both for success and failure. What a fabulous opportunity for students to explore new areas of learning that may be their path to perseverance.
Trying is hard…it requires the ability to attempt with the possibility of failure…to attempt without full knowledge to the task….to truly put yourself out there with no guarantees. This is the point of my post. Creating engaging, extending, challenging opportunities for students to try, to truly extend themselves in areas they may or may not find success at first, or even at second or third, but are willingly to give it the “good olde college try” to find some level of success.
At my school work to included activities that engage the brains, the interests, the engagement of students in today’s learning environment. The #hourofcode with TechKnowKids and the MIT are activities in addition to the variety of options such as basketball, cheerleading, and outdoor survival skills. What I have witnessed is students being able to explore alternatives, abilities, and engagement in areas that may not be readily obvious to explore. I recall several years ago there was a student who joined the basketball team. This boy was not athletic and had never dribbled a basketball before, let alone shot a basket. However, the coaches worked with him practice after practice, and he persevered. He played on the team for the next few years, and in his last season was a leading scorer on the team. We have had students who can’t bounce a basketball and yet become awesome 3-point shooters, others who can’t figure out rhythm, who star on the cheerleading squad, who never ran a mile yet become stars on the cross-country team, and those who don’t understand technology, using it to find a level playing field of learning, and a path to success programming their own icon or avatar to perform.
The staff at my school work daily to support students to persevere in the classroom skills daily…It is what we do. Yet it is in all the other moments of the day that the staff shows kids all the other things they could be interested in and even successful at but haven’t tried because they have lost the perseverance. This is why I love where I work. It is not just about addressing their learning, it’s about teaching them that they are capable and can succeed in those things they may have been too scared to try, because with learning being an uphill battle, everything else can seem like a mountain. So I empower all educators to provide various opportunities for students to experience, just experience…because perseverance is the path of hope we need to foster in learners.
Nobody trips over mountains. It is the small pebble that causes you to stumble. Pass all the pebbles in your path and you will find you have crossed the mountain. ~Author Unknown