Once upon a time, not so long ago, a little group of curious newly-legged frogs spent every waking minute experimenting with their world. All of the peepers explored and practiced every possible area of learning. Most, however, found that the winds directing their studies sent them in a variety of directions. A few practiced jumping until their legs could jump no more. They leapt high and far, increasing their distance with each bound. Some ambitious amphibians tried their hand, or rather foot, at creating symbols to represent the stories frequently shared within the family. Pictures and word symbols were attempted, adjusted, abandoned, and accepted. One lily pad hosted frogs intent only on perfecting their melodious, throaty tunes. Many of the frogs often attended and excelled at reptilian etiquette class where they learned the finer points of when to croak and when to listen, how to politely solve problems encountered in leap-frog, and how to build positive relationships among the froggy clan. Each frog found and explored their passion.
Yet all was not perfect in the land of frog. For the leapers were not necessarily good croakers. The symbologists occasionally missed their aimed for lily pad. The successfully social often found symbols and storytelling completely non-compelling.
The adult frogs wanted to know when their athletic little polliwog would finally begin to see the point of symbols. When would the socially awkward frog, though an amazing hopper, figure out that croaking in his neighbor’s ears was unmannerly. Why was the worst singing frog in the history of frogsong allowed to remain in the pond anyway? (Though the parents did acknowledge the tuneless little frog was an amazing diver and adept at bug snatching.)
“Wait,” said the teachers.
“Patience,” said the wind.
“Faith,” said the lily pads.
As the months went by, the polliwogs often began to drift toward new endeavors. Some who had spent all their spare moments leaping began singing at every opportunity. Others who had found symbology a chore, now sought out the craft as the most obvious way to record their newfound love of reptilian history. Though it is true that some of the polliwogs held on to their original strengths as they matured, none of them stopped at one discipline for learning. All of them gained a bit from each experience and in the end, all became committed to the pond and it’s community, contributing in the manner of their genius.
One of the most important things that children can learn is to persevere when confronted with a challenge. As our small children grow into excelling adults, we want them to see set backs as learning experiences and opportunities for growth. Challenges come in many forms. Some are innately obvious and some can be a bit obscure. Pre-K is a wonderful ground for observing all of these.
From the first moment your babies breathed, they were attempting to make sense of their world. They had to make many mistakes along the way. Remember when they were so very little and their arms and legs seemed to wildly flail about without any real purpose? Each movement taught their brain something about how they could interact with the world or control each muscle. Zoom ahead a few months and watch a baby learn to sit. They fall. They get up. They don’t give up just because it is hard. We are wired from the beginning to be tenacious.
Yet, somehow, as we age, we begin to start reflecting on our actions more. Children begin to see themselves as “good” at some things, and “not good” at others. For some children, and many adults, this translates into finding ways to circumvent tasks and activities that do not come easily. A fear of failure dictates the types of things we choose to do.
For this reason, Winchester Thurston and many other acclaimed independent schools make persistence a major goal for each of our students. From Pre-K forward, we work together to encourage our students to revel in a challenge. By teaching our children how to approach all aspects of life as an experiment and how to view failures as simply data to inform our next decision, we guide them to a true gift: permission to grow.
Now that we can [hopefully] expect to have frost-free evenings here in Western Pennsylvania, we’ve begun to explore our growing world outside. Our first question was how to identify something that is alive vs. something that is not. We decided that things that are alive need to breathe and grow. (Please note that, thankfully, one of the children put me on the list.)
Many items on our list were creatures, but a few were of the plant variety. We talked about the differences between plants and creatures and tried to figure out how plants eat and drink. To help us with this problem, we invited a new friend to join us.
We tried to think up a name for him, but the children lost interest after they tried to name him “Brown Head” and I suggested that a name doesn’t always describe someone. Oops. I guess I should have left well enough alone on that one. Instead, we decided that we should all make a new friend to share our class with.
The children have been helping with the care of their freshly planted grass seeds by spritzing them with water on a daily basis. One child suggested today, “If I give it lots and lots of water, I bet it will grow really, really big!” I asked him how well he would grow under water. Of course he said that he couldn’t possibly live under water because he needed air. There was almost an audible Ding! when he made the connection that the plant needed air, too.
When the children arrived this morning, I heard exclamations of “Look at my friends hair!” and “It’s growing! It’s growing!” We’ve been looking at the roots from the grass seeds along the sides of the cups for a day or two, so it was quite exciting to finally see some green poking out of the top of the cup. Señora Sewald has been helping us understand the structure of a plant by making a collage using real plant parts. Of course the children practiced saying roots, stem, leaves, and flower in Spanish, too. Now they can see their own living versions of the collage.