The Ultimate Marshmallow Test

The Meadows School Campus
Educators and students thrive on close proximity, on face-to-face engagement, but so does the COVID-19 virus. With heavy hearts, we loaded our students with books and supplies on Friday, the thirteenth of March, and guided them toward car lines, away from classrooms that they would not see again for a long time. Scholars in every division balanced heavy backpacks between their shoulders and slogged toward waiting vehicles, one foot in front of the other, more like trudging draft horses than galloping mustangs.

Since March, we’ve all learned to eye a six foot distance from others, even without measuring. Social distancing is the ultimate "marshmallow" test. You may remember the famous research by Stanford Professor Walter Mischer which tested children’s ability to delay gratification. Sitting before a marshmallow, youngsters were told, “If you don’t eat this marshmallow, when I come back in 5 minutes you may have two.” Mischer’s study taught us about self-control and delay of gratification.

Like the children in the Stanford study, we must wait and be patient for the promise of reward. Medical experts tell us to stay home and practice social distancing for the greater good. Like the children studied, there is something we would all rather be doing right now, but knowledgeable experts remind us to resist. Sadly, we are only about 30 seconds into our delay of gratification test, with four and a half minutes to go. We are facing the greatest self-control challenge of our time.

So, how did those children succeed in the Stanford test? They did not focus on the temptation, they resisted in every way they could. The successful children were creative, they sang songs, they turned away, they used their imaginations. The pandemic has challenged us all with boredom and many uncertainties, but in the weeks or months ahead we will nurture our self-control and grow rich with patience. As Shakespeare said, “How poor are those that have no patience. What wound did ever heal but by degrees.”

We will find ways to celebrate our beloved class of 2020 and we will continue one gallop apart. When the time is right, we will walk race back to our classrooms to be with friends and maybe eat a few marshmallow snacks.
Shana Marek 
Lower School Director
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