All summer long I've wrangled my children up the hill to 8:00a swim practice--two in the stroller revolting because I didn't let them bring their truck or stale milk or, heaven forbid, their ten pound collection of army people; the other two dragging behind with towels around their neck, sleep in their eyes, moaning and groaning about the hill or the heat or their tired legs and always, "Ugh, can't we miss just one day?" I do not look left nor right nor anywhere behind me. I look straight ahead. I'm fast paced with the oversized swim bag falling awkwardly off my shoulder but I push push push. No slowing down for fear we might stop altogether.  

I'm sure we put on quite a show for the passerby's on their way to work or those with a view out the window of their quiet, clean homes. I imagine them sipping their morning coffee and contemplating what to do next. It is my hope that we at least inspire a chuckle as they start their day, "There go the Mirabito's again."

And to answer my daughters' question about missing a day (which I never actually answer): sure, we could probably miss a day. We definitely aren't specialists when it comes to sports. In fact, as far as swimming goes, we only swim for the three months our neighborhood pool is open--Memorial Day to Labor Day. Swim team runs even less--from late June until the end of July. So any other time out of the year, unless we're at the ocean or a hotel pool (very rare occasion) we are not swimming. But my goal is not to make them swim champions. My goal is to develop competencies, personal competencies, that will fuel their success in life. As Sam Redding puts it those personal competencies include cognitive, metacognitive, motivational, and social-emotional capabilities. It is to help them identify what they know and what they don't, to understand how they think and learn best, to know why they persist and what they are working toward, and to see how all of it  (the preparation, the effort, the reflection, the action) applies more broadly in their life and in their interactions with others. 

So, I asked them to prepare for their final swim meet in a very different way. I asked them to write about it. Specifically, I asked them to:

Write down their goal for their final swim meet.

Next, we brainstormed all of the ways they have prepared to meet that goal (physically and emotionally). Cognitive Competency is being able to access prior knowledge that organizes the mind and provides associations to support new learning.

Third, we talked about how they will use what they've learned in swim team in their final meet that night. Metacognitive Competency is the self-regulation and use of learning strategies (e.g. problem solving, synthesis, creative thinking).

Fourth, they explained why they want to achieve their goal. Motivational Competency ignites engagement and persistence in pursuit of goals.

In closing, they will share what this swim experience has taught them and how what they've learned will help them in other ways throughout their lives. Social-Emotional Competency provides a sense of self-worth, regard for others, and the emotional understanding and management to set goals and make responsible decisions.

We are still in the draft process, but here you can see the brainstorming and the development of a first draft. I loved how THROUGH the exploration and expression of each of the personal competencies, they were engaging in deeper questioning and thinking. 

Their goal was to place first in their heat, at the very least. And this time, they did. They met that goal. But it was the process of understanding how they had prepared in each of those competencies to both set the goal and aim to meet it that was the real achievement. That made all of those sweaty, meltdown-filled treks a very small price to pay for the skills and knowledge they will continue to develop, connect, and carry with them--up hills and down, gracefully or in struggle, personal bests or all out wins--every day of their life.

Winners of events at this meet receive balls with their event and times. 

Sure, some of what they do and how they do it might involve luck and God-given talent, but the real satisfaction of a job well done (visualized in the picture above) mostly involves a lot of hard work, asking questions, making connections, persisting, having gratitude, and applying intention. It didn't occur to me until yesterday as we anticipated that last meet of the season how this swim team experience was a perfect example of all those things. In increments of one hour every single day for little more than a  month, they grew in knowledge, skill, confidence, persistence, and teamwork. They grew in very personal ways that helped them (in this case) achieve in both public and private ways. 

Call To Action:

How are you building strong successful learners and educators for life in your states, districts, schools, classrooms, homes? How do you build the personal competencies of your staff and your students?  Tell us in the comment section below, or just say hello. We'd love to hear from you.

Additional Reading + Resources:

PersonalCompetencyInfographic.pdf created by Maureen Mirabito

The Something Other, Dr. Sam Redding

Why the Personal Competencies Matter

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