As we were finishing up recess and about to go inside for Yoga one of our students hadn’t tried the zip line. She wanted to do it, but couldn’t find the courage to try it. So I did it with her, walking her down the line slowly and she enjoyed it. We did it again as a group, and some of the kids picked it up quickly and were soon doing it alone. There was a rhythm to the game as they waited their turn, took the zip line, returned it, and waited again. The rhythm would be halted as the one child would have to muster up courage, I would walk to the platform and walk her down the line. The other kids waited patiently until she found her strength and stepped off the ledge to do the zip line with me guiding her. They would encourage her, but she didn’t do the zip line alone that day. Although she didn't do the zip line alone she has grown as a person through the exercise. Is she the bravest at this activity, no. Is the student who found the zip line easy the best at counting, not necessarily. But they all play a part in our Montessori school family. The beauty of Montessori is we can all be who we are at the place that we are. No one has to be good at counting at a certain point on a certain day. No one has to want to do the zip line on the first day of school, because in our school environment, we get to be exactly who we are and become exactly who we are called to be on our own time schedule.
But something stuck out about the experience. If we did not have the lee way we have at our school to decide to stay outside longer, while she hopefully, but maybe not, figured out the zip line, she would not have got to experience the joy that comes with accomplishing something that is hard. Perseverance is a muscle that needs to be trained, and through perseverance we can find passion and fortitude that the bible talks about in Romans 5:3
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Psychologist Angela Duckworth talks about this when she refers to “grit”. Recently, grit has been cited as one of the largest predictors of success in students and adults. Put simply, it is the combination of passion and perseverance. Today, our students learned half of the recipe to grit and we didn’t have to do anything but stay out of the way and let them learn. A schedule is important, but so is taking the time to let children learn. There were no worksheets, songs, or remedial “grit” classes to take. It was just life and children doing what comes naturally. But that takes time, patience, and encouragement, which is sometimes hard to come by when schedules are tight, there are 25 other kids in class, who also need attention, or the internet is screaming how bad of a parent you are. It’s a good lesson in humility, when all you have to do is step back, change your expectations, and watch the children grow.
Update: Our student progressed from me walking down the zip line, to me taking one step away from the platform, to two steps, etc. until I was all 90 ft. away. She now wants to be swung from side to side while going down the zip line and is encouraging another one of our students who hadn’t found the strength to try.