Recently, I was privileged to speak to the faculty and administration at Darlington School, an incredible private school in north Georgia full of caring educators. One hot button issue that day concerned perseverance in students. Kevin Ivester, a math teacher at Darlington, blogged about the need for tenacity and good attitudes, based on discoveries made in Singapore students. I wanted to share his findings with you and offer some ideas on how to respond to low perseverance in kids.
Several years ago, researchers from the U.S. traveled to Singapore to uncover why students there consistently scored in the top world rankings for math. (American students typically rank around 30 in the world rankings.) As a result of this trip, a workshop was created in the U.S on Singapore Math, which teachers from Kevin's school attended. What they learned was fascinating.
What Singapore Teachers Teach...
As the researchers were in Singapore, they were looking for an amazing new solution they could bring back to U.S. schools. But instead of a grand key, they found that as Singapore students did their work, they were consistently reinforced with two ideas: attitude and perseverance. As a result, the researchers saw that students in Singapore were "willing and eager to tackle any problem the teacher gave them, without even a hint of complaint."
As part of the researchers' study, Singaporean teachers permitted an experiment. They grouped third graders into small groups and gave them a math problem from a higher level workbook, which contained principles they hadn't learned yet. Then, the teachers instructed the students to work on the problem as long as they needed. Immediately, their tenacity was apparent: "Not a single kid asked the teacher why they were given this difficult problem, or why the problem contained topics they had not covered." Instead, they worked on the problem within their groups for over an hour, drawing models to help them figure out the steps to the solution. They worked until the teacher forced them to stop. Some groups had completed the problem, but all had at least uncovered a few correct steps. This showed the researchers how well "perseverance" was ingrained in these students.
Meanwhile, Back Home...
When the researchers arrived back in the U.S., they set up a similar experiment on American students, following the same steps they created in Singapore. The results, however, were drastically different. Whereas Singaporean students worked until they were forced to stop, American students on average spent only 34 seconds before proceeding to quit. They were quoted as saying, "I don't get it," "I'm done," "This is too hard," and "How do they expect us to know this?" As a result, researchers concluded that the attitude and perseverance of American students was almost nonexistent in comparison to Singaporean students.
What Causes American Kids to Give Up So Easily?
Let me venture to suggest a number of reasons why perseverance is down:
- Instead of reinforcing tenacity, we make life convenient for our children. We have worked to remove (not embrace) difficulties, viewing them as negative.
- They have an incorrect perception of what it takes to achieve great things. They watch highlight reels on SportsCenter, but never see the hours of practice athletes put in to be able to dunk a basketball or hit a curve ball.
- All the answers they need are at their fingertips on a portable device. Instead of learning critical thinking skills, they ask Google. It's an instant answer.
- When solutions don't come quickly, an adult (often a parent) swoops in to save the day. Their commitment muscle atrophies from disuse.
Does this speak to every American student? Of course not. Do we teach kids every day to work hard and struggle through their problems? Yes. But I'd be willing to bet that most teachers in the U.S., at any level of education, have seen this lack of perseverance in their classroom. It's the kid who buys a new video game and can't get past the first level after two minutes. Instead of working hard and long, he or she goes to the Internet to find a cheat code that will take him straight to level two with no effort at all. This is more the norm now than the exception.
Stay tuned next week, as I offer seven ideas on building perseverance in students.
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We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.
Failure is success if we learn from it.
The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it is the same problem you had last year.
-John Foster Dulles
The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.
People become really quite remarkable when they start thinking that they can do things. when they beleive in themselves they have the first secret of success.
-Norman Vincent Peale
Nothing will work unless you do.
I'm a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.
Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.
-Robert Louis Stevenson
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream. Discover.
I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.
Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
If you focus on the obstacles, then you give them more power.
Instead focus on your purpose, on your most authentic and fundamental intentions.
You can only be truly accomplished at something you love. Don't make money the goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and do them so well that people can't take their eyes off you. All the other tangible rewards will come as a result.
I've failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.
Success is not a destination. It is a journey.
Success is that old ABC - ability, breaks, and courage.
Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is true failure.
-George Edward Woodberry
The men who try to do something and fail are infinitely better than those who try to do nothing and succeed.
Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don't turn up at all.
Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get.
We strain hardest for things which are almost, but now quite within reach.
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must be overcome.
Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right.
Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.
Put a grain of boldness into everything you do.
A ship in a harbor is safe, but that is not what ships were built for.
A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.
If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery
The best helping hand that you will ever receive is the one at the end of your own arm.
There are no shortcuts to any place worth going
Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is to always try just one more time.
Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.
-Booker T. Washington
Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.
The only good luck many great men ever had was being born with the ability and determination to overcome bad luck.
We must remember that one determined person can make a significant difference, and that a small group of determined people can change the course of history.
Every worthwhile accomplishment has a price tag attached to it. The question is always whether you are willing to pay the price to attain it - in hard work, sacrifice, patience, faith, and endurance.
-John C. Maxwell
Don't confuse fame with success. Madonna is one; Helen Keller is the other.
In order to succeed you must fail, so that you know what not to do the next time.
-Anthony J. D'Angelo
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore is not an act, but a habit.
Eighty percent of success is showing up.
If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you.
The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one comes from a strong will, and the other comes from a strong won't.
-Henry Ward Beecher
The road to success is dotted with many tempting parking places.
When the world says, "Give up," Hope whispers, "Try it one more time."
Consider the postage stamp: its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing until it gets there.
Fall seven times, stand up eight.
Keep on going, and the chances are that you will stumble on something, perhaps when you are least expecting it. I never heard of anyone every stumbling on something sitting down.
-Charles F. Kettering
Big shots are only little shots who keep shooting.
Age wrinkles the body. Quitting wrinkles the soul.
Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.
-M. Kathleen CaseySome luck lies in not getting what you thought you wanted but getting what you have, which once you have got it you may be smart enough to see is what you would have wanted had you known.
I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders.
If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere.
-Frank A. Clark
Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are.
The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem.
A bad grade is only one letter in the Essay of life.
Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.
When written in Chinese the word "crisis" is composed of two characters - one represents danger and the other represents opportunity.
-John F. Kennedy
A problem is a chance for you to do your best.
What a pity human beings can't exchange problems. Everyone knows exactly how to solve the other fellow's.
When life gives you lemons, please, just don't squirt them in other people's eyes.
-J. Andrew Helt
The gem cannot be polished without friction nor man without trials.
I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind.
Some come from ahead and some come from behind.
But I've bought a big bat. I'm all ready you see.
Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!
Rock bottom is good solid ground, and a dead end street is just a place to turn around.
A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success.
Life is what you make it. Always has been, always will be.
It always seems impossible until it is done.
A different wold cannot be built by indifferent people.
Those who say it cannot be done, should not interrupt the person doing it.
When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal, you do not change your decision to get there.
Some people dream of success... while others wake up and work hard at it.
To believe in yourself and to follow your dreams, to have goals in life and a drive to succeed, and to surround yourself with the things and the people that make you happy. This is success!
Success: To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Try this: Have students read the last two quotes and then write their own definition of success.
Do you have a quote to add? Please comment!