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Monday, July 24, 2017

Can't Vs. Won't

I love to cook. It's another thing I do to Sharpen the Saw (Habit 7). I like making something delicious and sharing it with my family. I like to try different things, but also follow traditional family recipes. Some of the new foods I try become a tradition as well. I started helping with Thanksgiving, mostly desserts, when I was 12. In middle school, we had Family and Consumer Science, where we learned how to cook small meals. By the time I was 14, my mom had me help a little with dinner and I was able to follow simple recipes. When I was 15 or 16, I was able to cook small meals if my mom wasn't able to and by the time I was 21, I was able to cook harder and more time consuming meals. Now at 27, I'm still cooking those harder meals, but also love finding ways to make one-pot meals so there's less dishes to clean up.

Over the years, I've seen girls my age and women even older than me say things like "I can't cook." I have feminist beliefs. I don't think women need to conform to gender stereotypes. Women can become scientists, engineers, and mathematicians. They can  hold jobs, support themselves, and even run for president. Men can cook and help with raising kids. More men are becoming stay at home dads. I am supportive of breaking gender stereotypes and norms. However, when anyone (male or female) says "I can't cook," I get a little irritated. It's not so much you can't cook as you won't cook. The reality to that statement is you don't want to do it.

Can't suggests a lack of skills or knowledge. It means you are physically unable to do something and it's not possible. Won't suggests disinterest in performing a task. Cooking is not rocket science. No one said you had to come up with a gourmet meal, especially without a recipe. You measure ingredients using a measuring cup or spoon. The recipe tells you how much you need. If you can follow directions, you can cook. Problems occur when you don't follow directions. If you aren't paying attention to time and temperature, you can burn and overcook things (or under-cook them). If you don't measure things, you could put too much or too little of ingredients in your dish. The recipe measurements and directions are there to help you. The reality is cooking takes time and makes dishes. In our fast-paced society, many people don't want to take the time to cook and they don't want to have to do the dishes. Attention spans are short, around 20 minutes, and people look for instant gratification, but with cooking gratification is delayed. Perhaps people should respond saying that they don't like or want to cook and they prefer that other people do it for them.

Another example of Can't Versus Won't is sports. I frequently say that I can't play sports or I am not athletic. What I mean is I lack hand-eye coordination and think sports are too hard. My father never showed me how to do throw or catch a ball when I was younger and then he stopped interacting with me altogether. I don't have the stamina to run. I prefer calmer forms of exercise, like yoga, pilates, meditation, mindfulness, progressive muscle relaxation, etc. I don't plan to play sports ever, so the next time someone asks me if I play sports, I can say I'm not interested in or don't want to play sports.

So what does all this Can't Versus Won't cooking and sports stuff have to do with school counseling? Think of your students. How many times have they told you or their teacher that they "can't" do something? When a student says this to me, I say do you mean that you can't or you don't want to/ won't. Some older students have thought about that question and responded by saying "both." As counselors, we need to consider the possibility that our students can't do certain things because they don't want to. I've heard about the power of "yet." Yet refers to the concept that we do not have the skills or abilities to do something yet, but with time and effort we will be able to. This is part of growth mindset. We can try to get our students to buy in to growth mindsets using the power of yet, but what if the task at hand is not something they desire to master? I would never play sports or go skydiving, therefore the power of yet is moot. Additionally, what happens when the task at hand is an academic requirement? In order to move on to the next topic or grade, the student must master the current concept. I suppose at this point when something is a requirement, we shift focus from the power of yet, to intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. We need to encourage and motivate our students to want to master the concept or task and then the power of yet will come in to play.

🙋 Your Turn: What do you do when a student says they "can't" do something? How do you go about talking to your students about Growth Mindset and the Power of Yet? How do you motivate your students when they don't want to something that's a requirement? Let me know in the comments! I'm always looking for more ideas. Student motivation is definitely a topic that comes up often.

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