Back to the 3 P’s of learning

Slice of Life logo“Go Practice” – I can hear my mother’s voice over and over as if she were practicing herself. “You only get better when you practice”. I was 7 or 8 or 9 – I am sure I heard her say this when I was 40 or let me be honest 60. I was the kid that wanted it now, the hyperactivity kid that could not wait, could not stay with things long enough to master what I was learning.

She was a woman who understood learning a new skill. She made things look easy although I learned as I got older they were not always easy for her. She just knew what she needed to do to really learn something.

I think this learning came because she was an artist. Not an artist by trade but in her heart and in her daily life. Yes, she was a singer and she could draw beautifully (although she stop doing that when I was young).  She continued to use the tools she learned early in her life.

She followed what I am calling the 3 P’s of learning. She was patient with herself when learning something new. She was persistent, staying with the new skill until it was mastered. She knew she had to practice, that it was repetition that was going to develop the skill she was learning. Even at 94 she was still learning. IMG_1381

I have been working on new skills since I retired but not getting very far and last night (very late) I thought about my students over the years. I thought about their frustration, and how quickly they gave up. The new instruments that did not go home because it was hard. The art project dropped because it did not look right the first time. The book that was pitched into the corner because the words were hard.

I though about how I am still just like them. How I was ready to quit the drawing class almost before I have begun, how I was ready to throw the knitting across the room. (Ok, so sometime we just don’t completely grow up!)

Then there, in my dream, was my mother standing at the stove stirring something in a pan. This was her power spot – always cooking, always making some wise statement slowly and carefully so you would hear but never looking at you. It was not a challenge – it was just information she thought you needed to hear.

She just quietly said – why are you mad at yourself, you are learning something new. Just take time to try again – go practice.

And there we are! Back to being 7 years old.

We all reach that point when learning a new skill, the point of frustration. If we want to really learn this skill or new information we have to be willing to take time, to practice and to be patient.

As I remind myself of the need for persistence and practice – I wonder as the new school year begins are we sharing this with our students? Are we letting them know it is patiences, persistence and practice that will make a difference for them this year as they learn? Are we letting them know it is ok?


I have written about this in so many different ways. I just keep writing about it – I guess I am practicing!

About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, care for my Grandson and write. Life is good!
This entry was posted in behavior change, Reflection and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Back to the 3 P’s of learning

  1. Dana Murphy says:

    I love that you are still listening to your dear ole mom, even if only in a dream. 🙂 This is the growth mindset that is all the rage right now – this is it, right here. Always learning…

  2. Linda Baie says:

    It seems that we do continue to ‘hear’ our mother’s words, or our grandmother’s too, Joanne. I really believe through encouragement that students can learn that practice gives rewards. At the beach this summer, Ingrid wanted so much to dive to the bottom of the pool like her cousin (she’s 6, he’s 14). That’s motivation, and after practice for a long time each day, she did it, figured out how to propel down (with cousin’s instructions), & got stronger, was diving to the bottom of an 8 foot pool. She was so proud. I think your three P’s are wonderful (with a little motivation thrown in), keep writing!

  3. Lori Sheroan says:

    I love your three Ps, and I hope you don’t mind if I pass them on to my students! Of course, first I will explain to them how much I needed to read your post myself!!!

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