Perseverance or Picking Yourself Up Off The Ice

16 Oct

Recently our children started what is for most Canadians a rite of passage—ice skating lessons.  This was a difficult lesson for all of us. Our older girls already thought they knew how to skate so crashing repeatedly on the ice was a bitter surprise to them.  We winced as we saw our older girls hit the ice time and time again. One of our girls in particular, took a couple of hard hits that resulted in tears. Watching this lesson would cause anxiety in any normal person but sent one of us just about through the roof.  The reflexive desire was to want to rush onto the ice and pull the girls off.   Instead you sit in the stands with your heart in your throat and your stomach in knots as you watch your child pull herself up and start again. The amount of admiration you have for your child as she persists in a challenging task is beyond words.  The youngest of our girls (a mere three) went from super excited to extreme crying.   No amount of cajoling from the staff would help her get off the ice and back up to her plastic skating trainer.  When she finally left the ice it was with an accusing “where were my parents?” to her favourite (and doting) Aunt.  She, however, quickly rebounded while playing in the stands and basking in some solo attention.

After we (parents not kids) finally settled down after the lesson (a long time after the lesson) we had to reflect on what it means to persevere.  We readily admit that we would never have continued to pick ourselves up off the ice and continue as often as our girls did. We can say that truthfully because we temporarily took skating lessons.   This reflection on perseverance spun us in a myriad of directions.  The first of which was the obvious parenting response but the second path led us to how different students react when faced with challenges and our own intervention as teachers.

We have all seen students who seem to thrive on a challenge.  Some students, not just the gifted ones, will seek extra work or something more difficult in order to be happy in the classroom. Other students avoid any challenge finding comfort in daily expectations.   The nature of a ‘what is a challenge’ can be a moving target as well.  What can seem an insurmountable task to one student is child’s play to another – pun intended:).  As teachers we quickly learn where kids fall in the spectrum of perseverance.  We may jump in more readily to assist students who are easily frustrated in a task.   It makes us wonder, as teachers, if our good intentions don’t always allow our students to persevere and make mistakes as they need to.

For us, the ones who must sit and watch while our children learn and grow as skaters, we ask ourselves ‘what will be more difficult than the first week’s lesson?’ Sadly, we know the answer – next week’s lesson.  The lack of skates and a slippery surface (as well as the desire to avoid a public scene) keeps us in our seats during skating.  What can be done to “keep us in our seats” as teachers who need to give students the time they need?

Pick yourself up and get back on the ice.


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