Thursday, May 7, 2020

Is This Good Enough?

One of the challenges of distance learning is the question, “Is this good enough?” or, “Can I be done now?” Teachers answer this question all the time when we are at school and have context not only about what’s expected for the age/grade level, but also about what each child is capable of. What is outstanding for one child might be minimal effort for another child, so our teachers are constantly tailoring expectations to individual children to make sure that each is being sufficiently challenged, but not overwhelmed. At school, teachers calibrate expectations not only by seeing finished work, but also watching the children as they do their work.

During distance-learning, parents, grandparents and others working with kids at home are typically the first to get that question. It can be difficult to answer, because although you know your child well, you don’t know your child at school as well. Since starting distance learning, teachers have observed kids who have stepped up and are doing their best work ever. They have seen others who are struggling for a variety of reasons and are working with those kids and families to adjust expectations so those kids can experience success. And we have seen other kids who suddenly have no idea how to do something we have seen them do independently at school on countless occasions. Having family members nearby might seem a convenient escape hatch. They could need an extra push to step up and do what they are capable of doing.

The question, “Is this good enough?” is further complicated because many gifted kids are perfectionists. Perfectionism is a trait we see often in gifted people of all ages. So, you can imagine there might be concern at home over the definition of “good enough.” Too much time might be spent on an assignment that wasn’t intended to be that difficult. At school, we help kids judge. For example, a research paper a student has worked on for months with lots of time to edit and revise would have different expectations than a story reflection paragraph where 10 minutes of class time was allotted.

Teachers are experienced at helping children navigate these decisions at each grade level. They also know each child’s strengths and weaknesses. They know whether each child, on this particular assignment, typically needs an extra push or needs permission to call it good enough rather than stressing over it, trying to make it perfect.

As an adult at home in this partnership with school, the best thing you can do when you get the “Is this good enough?” question is to respond back with a question:
“Do you feel like you’re done?”
“Are you proud of your work?”
“Do you think this will give your teacher the best understanding about what you’ve learned / what you know / what you can do?”

Coaching children to reflect on their effort will help them learn that hard work is most important. It’s a key life skill to recognize that the biggest fulfillment comes with producing work that you’re proud of.

It’s hard to watch children make mistakes on an assignment or realize they could do better. But remember, letting them turn the work in as they have completed it will allow teachers to see what they need and make adjustments to address those needs.

Our teachers know kids well. It’s one of the benefits of being at a school like Seabury with small classes and a program designed to meet every child where they are. Our teachers continue to do that during distance-learning. Being able to meet the needs of kids is what we do best, and it’s the work that we love.

– Sandi Wollum

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