I have learned one thing about going down stairs in the NYC subways. First, don’t look too far ahead, especially because I don’t like heights and the image of the bottom with all the steps in between is just a bit overwhelming. So, I first glance at the distance, and then immediately focus my attention on getting down one section at a time – and if it is too steep I find that when I focus on the next several steps, and not the far far away bottom, I move quickly and without stress. I was reminded of this early today, as I made my way down to the subway train station methodically while others who do this everyday flew past me without any hesitation. How quickly their feet moved past mine, but not one of them was focused on the end, only the stairs they were stepping on. Whether going up or down, one can make progress a few steps at a time, no matter our personal limitations.
Self-regulation begins with setting proximal goals. Goals that can be attained, within reach, and not too far off. Goals, that when accomplished, will increase self-efficacy and motivate students to keep going! We need to examine the common core and the staircase of complexity (which moves upwards in skill attainment) and how we can help our students set attainable goals. Goal setting beyond one’s abilities only produce frustration and diminish self efficacy. Looking at the common core as a whole will overwhelm the best teachers and learners; we need to address the common core one step at a time.
Yes we want to challenge our students, but at the very least the goals should be manageable, and the steps to attaining them made very clear. If, when I entered the stairwell, all I saw was the drop from the top to the bottom, I would have turned away confused and wondering how to get to the subway. However, I looked further and focused on the levels! Although intimidating, by taking the steps six to ten at a time, I eventually made it to the subway platform. That was my strategy, and after only one practice I know I can do it again!