Some said perseverance is natural born and some said it is an acquired skill. My take on this topic is, perseverance is an acquired skill, it is a skill that can be learned and mastered to overcome self limiting factors to achieve a goal. It can and should be taught, just like any other life skills or competencies. Whether it is a natural talent or acquired skill, it needs practice over and over again through different environment and activities, until the child can relate, apply and master this skill to live up to his potential.
Few months ago, we organised a field trip to FRIM (Forest Research Institute Malaysia) for our 3-11 years old students. As you can imagine, the children were all excited and geared up for this trekking. Younger children were more excited about how prepared they were for the trip and busy showing off things like hat, backpack, water tumbler, snacks and insect repellent. Older children on the other side mainly discussed and encouraged each other to be mentally ready to deal with the notorious blood sucking leeches.
“Look children, this hiking is going to take a minimum of 2 to 3 hours, or even longer. It will not be an easy trek, let’s see how it goes and we can always adjust the plan,” said Mr. Ranger. However, I knew deep in my heart that our children would be able to complete the journey and make their way to the Canopy Walkway. I had faith in them and so did other teachers.
We started the hike after a short visit to the FRIM Gallery. It was an eye-opening experience for the children, Mother Nature wowed the children with the beauty of tall trees, sounds of small animals and insects, fresh air and sunlight that shines through the thick forest to the forest floor. Cicadas played the background music as our children walked slowly, they sang in synchrony, pulsing from soft to loud and then back to soft, helping our children to get used to the novelty. 20 minutes later, children progressed their walking pace to how they normally walk and they started to ask many questions about what they saw and heard in the forest.
“It is very nice to stand under the big trees because the sound that make by the trees is very soothing, I like it very much!” ~ Lee Shi Hua 8 years old ~
The forest is like a live encyclopaedia. Children surely kept Mr. Ranger busy with a lot of questions, like…
- How long and how big can the liana grow?
- Which is the tallest tree?
- Where are the leeches?
- What is the chattering sound?
- Is there any wild animals or predators?
- How far are we away from the Canapy Walkway?
- Why is this tree so hard and what is the name?
- Why the tree never overlap with each other?
… and many more.
After 2 hours of trekking, the questions faded as the run rise above their heads and the heat took tolls in the rainforest. Children started to complain about the heat and physical exhaustion, but when I asked them if they were giving up, they shouted “NO!”. I guess the teamwork spirit, parents and teachers guidance and encouragement played a big part to keep them emotionally engaged and charged up to continue the journey. My heart felt so warm when I saw the Primary students complete the trekking with their strong will, independence and perseverance. Not only that they self-motivate, they also showed teamwork spirit to encourage their peers and juniors not to give up on the tough trail.
Finally we arrived at the base of the Canopy Walkway, everyone cheered hooray! Wait a minute, a child spotted the signboard stating “another 500 meters to go”.
- “How far is 500 meters?” asked the child.
- “Not very far”, said Mr Ranger.
- “How long is 500 meters?”, asked the child again.
- “1 meter is equivalent to the longest red rod in our classroom, so how many 1 meter red rod to make up to 500 meters?”, said teacher.
- “500 red rods!”, said a Primary student.
- “Wow… it’s going to be very long walk!” said the child.
“Children, the hardest trek is just ahead of us, we need to trek to two very steep slopes and it will take us another 40 minutes to 1 hour to reach the peak”, said Mr Ranger.
Without much hesitation, the Primary students followed Mr Ranger and marched towards the first slope. Some children had to “walk on four” as some of the slope’s surface is higher than them, but no one stopped although everyone was panting heavily. The first resting bench came into sight so we all finally had the chance to rest and catch up with our breath. Children sat closely with each other and took turns to sit for a quick energy recharge.
Mr Ranger urged us to keep moving to conquer the second slope, and it is even tougher than the first slope. Everyone was physically drained, but mentally very excited because we knew we were not too far away from the destination. It took us 30 minutes to reach the Canopy Walkway. Once we arrived, children were so excited that they forgot all the physical pain and started to take on the new challenge – beat the fear of heights and walk on a 30 meters high, 150 meter long canopy.
Through this experience, I observed and learned the power of PERSEVERANCE. The saying of “There’s a will, there’s a way” is true, children can learn and master the skill to overcome self limiting factors to achieve a goal. As for parents and teachers, we should create suitable opportunities for children to develop this skill, so that they can strive for excellence in the future.
Now, back to our Montessori classroom, how is this education approach helping your child to develop perseverance. You may wonder why do your child keep performing the same “work” over and over again. The rationale of repeated learnings through Montessori work is to help your child to master a task independently. Through the repeated work, your child will learn and understand that success doesn’t happen overnight, success is the outcome of consistent effort.
“The value of movement goes deeper that just helping in the acquisition of knowledge. It is in fact the basis for the development of personality. The child, who is constructing himself, must always be moving.” (Her Life and Work-page 230)
Written beautifully by Samantha Ong