Determination Means Going a Little Further Than the Pain


My students have moved from off the climbing wall where they were facing major fear each day in class to the swimming pool where I have decided to allow determination to be my guiding virtue. On the climbing wall I taught then the definition of courage as the capacity to feel fear but then to go ahead and do the activity anyway, to take one more step despite the fear. I could continue with the virtue of courage in the pool because there are some great opportunities for it, but I have chosen determination as my guide because there is no way to become a good swimmer without it.

The most important aspect at the kindergarten level is the kick. Unlike soccer or basketball or other activities played on the ground swimming is done in an environment that they are not on all day. Young children walk and run all day so when they get out on the field their legs are already doing something that they are used to. When they are in the pool learning to kick they are practicing and activity that is relatively new. This means that the development of those muscles that allow for kicking are all relatively undeveloped. The goal at the kindergarten level is to turn on those muscles and give them some strength so that they can allow the swimming to happen easily.


To give themselves enough practice they virtue that they can benefit from a great deal is that of determination. I have defined determination at the kindergarten level as feeling some pain and then going a little further. Courage is about overcoming fear, but determination is more about overcoming pain. No pain, no gain. Pain should not be confused with fear because it is my experience that serious injury happens when a person is fearful of things like losing or being ridiculed, but a good dose of pain is necessary for the development of determination.

An interesting thing happens when, as a teacher, the virtue is the primary curriculum and the specific content is secondary. My mind begins to think of opportunities to develop the virtue which is, in this case, determination. Instead of stopping at what I might have done in years previous, I add one more repetition of kicks, or have them do breath control until they are just a bit more tired. They accomplish the swimming curriculum, but more importantly, they learn what determination is which can be generalized to every other part of their lives. Determination is not guaranteed by teaching swimming, but swimming is guaranteed when you start with determination.

The principle is that the invisible processes precede the outer visible content goals. In mathematics if children have the process of conservation of number, they will be able to do arithmetic processes. Without the inner process, they are just memorizing and eventually will be confused. Most children will learn arithmetic without specifically teaching conservation, but if they can understand what conservation is, it will be able to be used in other areas like human relations where the addition of positive qualities just makes a relationship better.

What I have learned is that by focusing on one virtue only that I get the most amount of gain from my students. Two virtues at one time such as cooperation and determination diffuse the teaching and lessen the results.


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