When Isabelle was little — and words were beyond challenging to utter — I noticed she would keep practicing. Isabelle wanted to understood so she kept trying. To hear her now, you’d never know she was diagnosed with CAS at 27 months old. Even today, on the occasions when her mouth can’t say the words her brain is thinking, she perseveres.
Isabelle joined swim team this summer. It wasn’t a try-out swim team. While everyone wants to win, the coach assured me his goal for Isabelle was to help her become a stronger swimmer and to do her personal best at swim meets. Both of those goals were met when swim team ended on July 6th. She shaved time off her freestyle and backstroke times every time she raced!
On July 9th, Isabelle started day camp. I pushed her to take the deep water test since I knew she could:
What I didn’t know — until after the first time she failed the test — is that she didn’t pass because she didn’t keep her head down to breathe. As a seven-year-old kid, she doesn’t breathe properly when swimming freestyle. Rather than complain (Safety first!), I asked if she could swim backstroke across the pool. That request was denied. She’d have to swim freestyle and breathe properly (to the side rather than lifting her head) or she wouldn’t pass.
After she failed for the first time, last Thursday, I told Isabelle I was proud of her for trying and that she didn’t have to take it again. (After all, you can’t learn how to do side breathing overnight.) The next morning, Isabelle grabbed her swim team swim cap and told me she would try again.
And she did.
She didn’t pass again — even while wearing the swim cap.
I learned she didn’t pass for the second time when we were writing in her line-a-day notebook. She had been holding it in for about five hours. But when Isabelle told me, she didn’t seem sad. Rather, she seemed determined to try again. In fact, she requested a lesson with her swim coach (which I set up for this weekend).
Today, Isabelle didn’t pass for the third time. She told me she was going to try again tomorrow. She’s prepared to side-breathe as best as she can. Seeing as I know she will most likely not pass again, I wanted to talk to her about how she might need to try again and again and again before she will be given the green light to go into the deep water during free swim. So, I read her Ashley Spires incredible book at bedtime:
My favorite line — from Isabelle — when she saw the girl toss a broken prototype over her shoulder was, “I can’t throw away the pool.” No, she certainly can’t.
I don’t know if Isabelle will pass the deep water test — due to the side-breathing she hasn’t perfected — this summer. Taking a deep water test again and again, rather than giving up, is incredible. No matter what the final outcome, I am beyond proud of Isabelle’s determination to keep trying to pass the test.
- Swim across the pool (from deep to shallow) without touching
- Tread water for 15 seconds
- Float for 15 seconds
Published by Stacey Shubitz
I am a literacy consultant who focuses on writing workshop. I've been working with K-6 teachers and students since 2009. Prior to that, I was a fourth and fifth-grade teacher in New York City and Rhode Island.
I'm the author of Craft Moves (Stenhouse Publishers, 2016) and the co-author of Jump Into Writing (Zaner-Bloser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Day By Day (Stenhouse, 2010).
I live in Central Pennsylvania with my husband and children. In my free time, I enjoy swimming, doing Pilates, cooking, baking, making ice cream, and reading novels.
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One thought on “On Determination & Grit”
Thank you for writing about determination. I learn so much from our youth. Now, to put it in practice in my life as a 50 year old!