Friday, March 30, 2012

SOLSC #30 Practice makes perfect

Little guy arrives at school with his Dad.
He sees the children's sign-in log.
He asks Dad to write his name in highlighter first.
I softly entreat,
"Oh, let's see how much you can do without the highlighter."
Little guy bursts into tears,
He hides his head in his father's lap,
"Oh my, what did I say that makes you cry?" I ask.
He looks at me, tears pouring down his cheeks, and stammers,
"I ...I ...I..I..can't...I..can't"
I say, as cheerfully as possible, "oh, hon, this is hard, this is what you are try, you struggle, you try again, it's how we learn."
But he is convulsed with sobs.
and I add,
"but, you don't have to try so hard, here is the highlighter."
He waves it away, and cries into his father's lap. He is mortified that he can't print his first name.
I see that his desolation is aggravated by my knowing.
I move away, beckoning my Resident to put in a sweet word with the little guy, to get his day's start back to a better place.

The crying stops; things smooth out; the day goes on.

The next day,
little guy comes over to me, mid-morning;
sidles up to where I am sitting and sits on my lap.
Unexpectedly affectionate.
He whispers,
"I cried yesterday.  I couldn't write my name."
Gently, I said,
"Oh, yes, I remember.  You were sad."
He adds,
"I can't write my sister's name either.  I want to."
I say,
"I remember, a long time ago, I couldn't write my name.  I couldn't print the letters.  Oh, how I wanted to! I had to keep practicing, keep trying.  And now, I write everything.  I write all the time.  I love writing."
He responds,
"Yes, yes, I have to keep trying.  I'm going to keep trying."

How magical and precious was this moment!  How precious this child.

That sign-in book is meant to be a happy ritual, for children and their parents to do is not an edict...many three and four year olds aren't ready physically to hold a pencil, many aren't ready mentally - and these are the children who breeze into the classroom and begin other activities, ignoring the sign-in book.  For those who do stop to write their name, I am interested in well they are doing it, and, as with any learning, seek to stretch them a bit, to challenge them to new heights.  Thus, this week, I stopped printing their name in highlighter for them to trace, just to see what they would do.

This little guy, at not quite four years of age, has very high expectations for himself.  He challenges himself to do so many things and he expects to do them well.  He shows me how important it is to have opportunities for failure in the classroom, how important it is to converse about "struggle", "practice", "process", "trying", "trying again"...

How nice to receive in yesterday's mail my NAEYC Teaching Young Children  and see an article entitled "Encouraging Growth Mindsets in Preschoolers" (by Shelby Pawline and Christie Stanford).... I've got some reading to do!


  1. I loved the birds-eye view into your relationship with this young child. How fortunate to have a teacher who takes the time to "converse about 'struggle', 'practice', 'process', 'trying', 'trying again'..."

  2. Have you read the book by Peter Reynolds titled Ish or The Dot? I love the way he eases kids into this practice and try, try again place.

  3. This is one of the beauties of blogsphere that I get to read so many stories of children, teachers, learning, and growing. Thank you for sharing your and Little Guy's story.

  4. I really enjoyed reading how you captured this moment, as well as the insights that you gained through the experience. It is a good reminder for all of us about scaffolding those important life-long skills!