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28. Regarding Perseverance pt 4

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Good Morning Families, today is Thursday April 30th, 2020 and it is now time for a moment of SEL.

We are working toward building perseverance. So far, we have motivation, that’s the energy and drive toward a goal. We have strong self-esteem, that’s how we value ourselves and necessary to help us handle the struggle and setbacks, so we don’t collapse or give-up along the way. Now we need time for reflection and creativity.

Why time for reflection and creativity?

Well remember, perseverance is the SEL skill of continuing to work toward a goal, even if it is difficult, challenging, or there are setbacks.

First though, let’s take a minute to try to define what we mean by challenges and setbacks and struggles. A challenge is something that may put your skills to a test. Challenges may add up to setbacks. A setback is something that either reverses your progress toward something or temporarily halts your progress entirely. The word struggle describes the actions of working out of or through some type of constriction. Struggle can be used to describe physical actions as in the players struggled on the ground for control of the ball. But struggle can be used on a deeper level to describe something larger than a challenge or a setback and may even be used to describe a series of challenges and setbacks. As in, I when I was in second grade, I struggled in math, so I went back to a first-grade class during math time. And struggle can also be used to describe a larger context as in, for years people have struggled and continue to struggle to have equitable access to all the benefits of our society.

As you can see from these definitions, challenges, setbacks, and struggles can require additional energy and effort. Which is why challenges, setbacks, and struggles require perseverance and why understanding how to handle challenges, setbacks, and struggles by using reflection and creativity can be so helpful for building perseverance skills. But to try to have a shared frame for this discussion we need a context to apply these challenges, setbacks, and struggles.

Let’s use the context of learning!

We are using a UC Berkeley Center for Teaching and Learning definition for learning, and you can look at that at Learning is an active process, built on prior knowledge which occurs in a complex social environment, is situated in an authentic context and requires motivation and cognitive engagement from the learner. Wowza!

So if you said, “it’s math” then I guess partial credit.

Now let’s further contextualize this discussion to academic skill building in a school setting.

Remember that? Using this more refined context and that definition of learning there are many built in challenges you can see right away. First, if the instruction or the environment for learning is not “active” in a way that would make your engagement with the material feel more comfortable, t hat would be a challenge. Second, what if the prior knowledge that instruction is built on, is not the same prior knowledge that you gained through your home culture? Third, school is a complex social environment. Massively complex. So complex that its complexity is often taken for granted by the people swept up in the complexity.

That means, the staff and students who work in schools are sometimes so used to the level of social complexity that exists in schools that they may overlook the appreciation for that social complexity. Lots of challenges there. Good thing we have Social Emotional Learning to support…learning!

And lastly motivation and cognitive engagement. D’Oh! There are so many challenges with this for teachers and students and families. The instruction being delivered may or may not match the motivation of the learning of the child or family. For example, the teacher may be very motivated for today’s lesson on fractions. The family may be very motivated for the child to get into Stanford. The child may be very motivated to get back to playing Destiny 2 when they get home. So yeah, there’s some challenges I’d even say, struggles.

From time to time those challenges can add up to setbacks and those setbacks can lead to struggles. That’s why you need a moment to stop and reflect.

When the teachers I work with face this exact challenge, regarding the math lesson here’s what they do. First, sometimes, they cry. Not because they’re wimps, but because it’s really hard. Students may cry, not because they’re wimps, but because it’s really hard. Families may cry, or yell, not because they’re wimps, but because it’s really hard. Struggle abounds around schooling.

So what do they do? Pause, reflect, and get creative. The teachers get really creative when it comes to supporting a motivational framework for students for student learning. They meet the challenge, they pause, they reflect on what’s giving them the challenge and then they go back at it. They know that in order deliver content that is rigorous, they need to develop lessons that are relevant. They know that the because those are young humans at those desks they need to build and maintain healthy and appropriate relationships with each of them. When they do this, they can measure the results.

But they wouldn’t know that if they didn’t stop and reflect on what is challenging, and what is not. And even after they have done that, they need to get creative. If at first you don’t succeed try, try, again. In fact, that phrase actually comes from education. Teacher’s Manual, from the year 1792 American educator Thomas H. Palmer wrote, “Tis a lesson you should heed, try, try again. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again.” He was trying to teach perseverance.

Okay, time to reflect. Are you struggling somewhere toward a goal? Give yourself a moment or two to reflect. What is the struggle. Where are things feeling challenging? Is the struggle built into the nature of activity of the process you are engaging in? Is the struggle coming from a lack of prior knowledge for this specific activity? Is the social environment culturally relevant (that would include too challenging, not challenging enough)? Is the challenge with authenticity? Is this a motivational issue? Where is my cognitive engagement with this goal?

Well, heck, that’s just way too much for a Thursday morning. Try this instead.

I want to be able to play the drum part on the song “Hot For Teacher” by Van Halen.

Yep, and I want to play the sax solo on Rio by Duran Duran.

So, here you go, this is me working to learn the drum line. (music example available on the audio versions)

And right here is where I’m challenged.

And this is me, working to learn the sax line. (music example available on the audio versions) and right here on this altissmo G# is where I’m challenged.

So, we’ll keep persisting, using some time to reflect on how we’re doing with these challenging parts. When we eventually get them, we’ll play them for you.

But tomorrow we will visit the final piece of perseverance which is how we re-approach our task using what we’ve learned from our reflection adding in a creative approach, called adaption.

We are looking forward to connecting with you in whatever way we can tomorrow. Until then, may your thoughts and feelings be with you.

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