I Can Do It!

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Our “no fretting shields 2.0” have arrived! Or to be more precise, have been made.

I decided to be more intentional with the folders this year. I bought folders that would only be used as no fretting shields — nothing else. I decorated them, and then considered what words I might add to them.

I wanted the words to be an affirmation, encouragement, or a reminder to breathe. And, I wanted it to be something all my girls could read. I finally decided on “I can do it!” It seemed perfect because it was something they would say about and to themselves — I can do it — not something someone else said about them — You can do it.

I got to see the shields in action today.

There are tons of assessments to be done in the beginning of the year — they help me learn a bit about my students, and be a better teacher. As I started to work with one of my girls, she noticed the folders sitting on a chair next to me.  She asked what they were, and then asked if she could try one while we worked together.

Of course!!!

I asked her if she knew what it said. She did. She read it, and we got to work.

At one point she expressed a lack of confidence in herself. I chuckled, and asked her what she had just read on the no fretting screen. She repeated it, smiled, and tried again. (YAY!)

Then, in a bit, as I watched her struggle to write one of the numerals, I almost said. “Can I show you how to make it?”

Oh my GOSH!

Thank goodness I had the awareness, and self control to keep that thought to myself, and allow her to continue to struggle and try. She was unfazed by the struggle. It was me who was uncomfortable with her need for hard work, risk, and possible failure.

There will come a time when I will step in and help her perfect her work. This was not that time.

If I had allowed those words to pass my lips. I would have negated the affirmation of the no fretting screen. My apparent kindness — trying to help — would have only proven that I can do it, not that she could. I would have unintentionally said I didn’t believe in the value of hard work, hard thought, and struggle. I would have suggested she couldn’t do it without my help. Ugh.

As I looked at the folder I realized that as she spoke the words “I can do it!” to herself, she also spoke them to me.

“I can do it, Miss James! Trust me. Trust the process. Trust our relationship. It’s all good.”

No Fretting Shields

Take a look. What do you see? What do you think is going on?

Yes, my students are writing. Yes, they have folders around their work. Nope, I’m not trying to keep my kindergarteners from cheating. I’m trying to keep them from fretting.

They want to be good at everything they do. They have big beautiful brains, and they use them in remarkably wonderful ways. They are constantly learning, discovering, and figuring out. The progress they have made since September — heck the progress they make every day — is fantabulous. None-the-less, they still fret.

I see the doubt, worry, and anxiety well up in their eyes. They don’t say anything out loud, but they stop writing, look at me, look at their paper, look at their friend’s paper erase, rewrite, and look at me again.

I imagine this conversation happening inside their awesome heads.

“Wait, what? Is that how you spell that? You mean I should think that? Is that the strategy I should use? Oh no, maybe I’m not right. Maybe they’re right and I’m wrong. Maybe Miss James will think I don’t know what I’m doing. Maybe I really don’t know what I’m doing. Ohhhhh nooooo!”

Phew! I want that internal conversation to stop. I want them to see and know how remarkable they are, how marvelous is their thinking, strategizing, struggling, and even failing. I constantly encourage them to trust themselves. I talk about strategies, and why they were powerful.

It doesn’t help. I mean, of course it helps some. They do try more, and perhaps stress a bit less, but wow, they do still fret.

Finally, I had an aha moment. I broke out the folders.

One of my girlies asked what they were. Another said “They’re so we don’t cheat.” Many eyes turned to look at my face. Almost as though they couldn’t believe I would even suggest they would do something so nefarious.

Before they could say anything I said, “I know a lot of people use these so kids don’t cheat. I’m using them so you don’t fret.” More eyes turned to look at my face. I continued. “You know how to do so many things, and you’re learning more and more every day. You have big beautiful brains, and you know how to use them. But, if you happen to look at a friend’s work and notice it’s different from yours, you fret. Instead of trusting yourself, or being ok not knowing it yet, you fret. And then you erase or change all your amazing work. So, I thought we could try some no fretting folders.”

One of them touched the folder and asked, “No fretting folders?”

“Yeah,” I replied. “No fretting folders. You put them up, and just do your stuff — without fretting about what the people next to you are doing.”

She repeated her question, but now it was a statement. “No fretting folders.” She paused a moment, and then with glowing eyes, and a huge smile, she said. “They’re like shields. They’re no fretting shields, Miss James!”

No fretting shields! Indeed. Perhaps next year we will each have our own personal “no fretting shield.” We can decorate them and keep them in our cubbies. We can decide when we need to use them. I wonder if that would increase the power of the shield. I think it just might.