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A for Effort


My shoulders are burning and my wrists ache. I can feel the blood rushing into my head and the pressure in my eyes. I push through my arms and squeeze my feet together. A brief moment occurs which appears to be timeless. I’m standing upside down, perfectly aligned- effortless, weightless and with ease. Although the moment feels timeless, I quickly come crashing down. A feeling arises in me that I haven’t had in years. It’s a familiar, but distance feeling, like seeing an old friend and remembering why you shared so much time together. It’s the feeling you had when you got a gold star for a perfect spelling test in first grade, or completed your middle school science project. I’ve been practicing hand stand for a while and could never seem to nail it without the wall. I finally see the result of the hard work I have been engaging in- the feeling of accomplishment.

I can’t help think about this experience in the context of the 10 year old boys that I teach yoga to. I see them struggle and fall. They ask “is this right Mr. K?” They become frustrated when they can’t get a pose on the first try. You see, the kids I work with aren’t the gifted kids. They aren’t the ones that are the first to raise their hand when the teacher asks a question. No, these are the kids that are playing in their desks or getting constant reminders to “pay attention.” Whether diagnosed with ADHD or not, I work with boys who may be on the edge of disengagement. They may not be experiencing the traditional sense of the word success. They may be barely making passing grades or unmotivated in the classroom setting- unwilling to put in the effort in that is needed to be educationally successful.

However, when I see them practice over and over they exhibit the excitement and reinforcement necessary to build personal motivation and grit. I watch them slowly harness their attention, building self-regulation and focus when constructing a yoga practice. When they finally hold that pose for that instant when time stops a little seed is planted in their hearts. A little seed that is called motivation, a seed called success and a seed called engagement. Although you can’t see these seeds and there are no place for them on report cards, they grow in the hearts of our children. The first time a child feels success, real success, the type of success that comes from heart work and self efficacy, it provides the foundation for the grit and motivation necessary to work towards other goals. This success builds “I can statements” and a “growth mindset”, which fights against set backs and challenges. As children water these seeds through hard work, problem solving, and resiliency their seeds will grow into strong trees that bend during even the strongest storms.

So even though my kids may not get A’s in math or spelling. They get an A for effort. They get a taste of success that they may not have had through their grades in class. They get to say, “I can do this. I can try again when I fall down, and when I do, it will feel good.” Then, years later, when they are about to give up after tirelessly hunting for the solution to a vexing problem as an adult, they will find a solution. Once again they will have that feeling. The feeling they had when they held crow pose for five seconds, and they will remember it was all worth it.

Benjamin Knaebel, School Psychologist

City Schools of Decatur

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