Have you ever watched a baby conduct a social experiment? You know, the kind where he/she drops a spoon from the high chair nine thousand times during breakfast. That is persistence. It can also be quite frustrating for the adult involved. However, the baby is quite content to drop the spoon over and over and over. He/She is learning many things during this activity.
- Spoons always fall down.
- Somebody will pick up the spoon and return it.
- When the spoon drops, people make sounds.
- The spoon did not disappear off the face of the planet.
- Falling spoons make people smile/cry/yell/giggle/pull hair from their heads.
Imagine the baby only dropped the spoon once. What would be learned? How many connections to the effects of a fallen spoon would the child be able to make? The answer is not many.
Our brains learn through making connections. We connect new stimuli to memories of previous experiences. We connect current information to the current input from our senses. (How do we feel? What do we smell? What is our emotional climate during this experience?) As we interact we connect possible ideas, or hypotheses, to present circumstances.
Supporting all of this thinking is a willingness to continue to experiment even in the face of mistakes. This is persistence. Babies don’t think twice about attempting the same action ad infinitum. It is only later, around four years of age, that we begin to see our selves as “not good” at certain things. We begin to believe that only those with “talent” can accomplish a task.
In Pre-K we are right on the edge of that bubble. Many of the children still believe that they can learn anything. We want to encourage that feeling because the truth is, they can. Anything we wish to do well requires practice. Persisting at daunting activities must be practiced, as well. We must allow children the opportunity to face low-risk failure (a puzzle piece doesn’t fit, a friend gets angry, the milk is spilled, it turns out that 20, 30, 60, 40 is not how you count) now. The price is not high and they can easily make another attempt. With practice, persistence will remain second nature.