Can you remember that sweet moment of success after attempting to figure it out over many painful hours? You just want to wave that white flag. I was on the top of the blue slopes in Killington, Vermont, just hopping off the ski lift without intentionally knocking over other skiers and snowboarders. This was probably my twentieth time up that slope that day. My calves are exhausted and sore, and I’ve been trying to make these S turns but all I’ve been making are sloppy Cs and slanted Ls. I couldn’t get past my fear of clipping an edge and falling, but this was my last run and I took a deep breath and told myself, “I got this.” I started making Ls and my friend who was snowboarding down a merging lane screams, “Turn right!” I was sliding right across and couldn’t bring myself to turn, then I heard another holler, “Bend your knees and switch left now!” and at that moment, I twisted and it clicked. I made my first complete S turn! That feeling of success was exhilarating and I carved sloppy Ss all the way down, and even hopped right back on the lift to make sure I really got it.
How can I create these moments for my children and students in my classroom, and beyond? When my daughter was two and she was playing with her blocks and connecting them, she used to scream, “I can’t do it!” very often. She would get very frustrated and upset easily. It would take a while to calm her. After she was calmed, we modeled how to connect the blocks and used encouraging words like, “Yes you can. Look, you can do it too.” Now, she’s a threenager and wants to do everything by herself and tells us she doesn’t need our help.
In the classroom, I’ve been teaching introduction to coding for the last few years and one very important word is perseverance. Students are asked to build a racing game using Scratch and they get easily frustrated when they click the green flag and nothing happens. I often hear, “I’ve put all the blocks together like I’m supposed to! It doesn’t work.” So I would prompt by asking, “Let’s try to debug. Have you tried testing each block to see which one is working correctly?” We go through each set of code together and they fix the missing factor and it works. They’re super happy and ask if they can create another track or add players.
“Clara Perseveres” is about a girl who learns not to give up with the encouragement of her big brother. The story also introduces readers to other computer science words that can be easily connected to the world around them. We follow algorithms all day and can help our children make those connections. For example, we can share steps to make pancakes, brush our teeth, drive to school, or get ready for bed. Furthermore, Clara can be used as a fictional and relatable reference when we start the school year and discuss classroom expectations. After sharing the story, we can say, ”Let’s persevere like Clara!” How can we respond when we reach an obstacle or challenge? We also collaborate and have pair programming activities so Clara and Ben’s roles can be referred to as driver and navigator, respectively. Ben provides a lot of instructions for Clara as she attempts the task. Similarly to a navigator giving step by step instructions on how to get to a destination while the driver operates the vehicle.
It was a combination of these moments with a common thread of perseverance that inspired me to write this children’s book. This book is for parents and educators to enjoy with their young ones and to show them that through perseverance they can celebrate all the sweet moments--no matter how big or small.
Cindy Phan Wong
Book Website: https://techwithcindy.weebly.com/
Amazon Link: http://bit.ly/goclara
Cindy Phan Wong has been an NYC elementary school third grade and technology teacher for over a decade. She loves engaging her students in lessons on computational thinking, digital applied skills, and digital citizenship. She believes that all students should have digital access and computer science lessons. She is a mother of two inquisitive young children, who keep her young at heart as she builds Legos, rolls Play-Doh, and bakes cupcakes. Cindy is also a Certified Google Trainer, Google Innovator, and 2020 CSTA Equity Fellow. She has presented at ISTE19, CS4All Teacher Summit, NYCSchoolsTech Summit, and CSTA Equity in Action.