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10.21.16
Perseverance in Middle School

The school-wide theme of this year is perseverance. We as a faculty want our students to understand that hard work is more valuable than everything coming easily; that meaningful achievement comes only through diligence and persistence; that it is the journey, not the destination, that matters. Our computer science program lends itself to this theme by design; the curriculum is largely founded on Angela Duckworth's research on "grit" (defined as "perseverance plus passion"). With our theme in mind, I have been more intentional with my language and instruction, encouraging students to persevere through tough assignments or situations in order to succeed.

Fifth grade's latest project definitely required perseverance. They were instructed to make digital tangrams. Tangrams are Chinese puzzles consisting of seven specific pieces: two large triangles, one medium-sized triangle, two small triangles, a square, and a rhombus. These pieces must be sized exactly according to the set parameters, else the puzzle won't work the way it's intended. In order for the students to do this project entirely independently, I would have had to teach them the Pythagorean Theorem, which would have been wildly inappropriate for their age, so instead I provided just enough information for them to figure out the dimensions using basic logic skills. After the students coded each piece, they then used the pieces to create a tangram design found online. This is trickier than you would imagine, but the students persevered, thought outside of the box, and successfully completed their puzzles. Below is a photo of a small sampling.

Another challenging element of this year has been the Middle School's keyboarding curriculum. Students are required to take more responsibility for their work and behavior once they reach the Middle School. As Mrs. Wagy says, this is the time for them to learn personal responsibility because the risk is so low; any negative consequences are small, in part because we (and parents) provide such a strong safety net. Knowing this, the Middle School teachers and I agreed that allowing the students to take charge of their keyboarding practice in computer class was a good idea. Each student must complete a certain amount of keyboarding work per week; this amount is differentiated between students and will likely change as the year goes on. They may have to spend time before or after school to finish their work in time, or, if they focus, they may get it all done during class time. The first couple of weeks caught many students off-guard; "I didn't have time!" they said. But through persevering and stepping up to the challenge, all of the students have gotten themselves on track and are headed steadily toward their individual goals. I had to let loose on the reigns while still expecting excellent behavior, and though it was a learning curve for both me and the kids, we have found our groove, and for that I am thankful and glad.

Perseverance in Middle School image

Perseverance in Middle School image