Sunday, October 27, 2019

The Power of Perseverance



In this instant everything world we live in, it seems like life is moving faster than ever. It's a text, tweet, Tic-Tok world for our kids and the idea of staying with anything for very long seems very old school. And that's a common concern I hear from teachers. It's extremely difficult to have a successful learning environment without learners who can persist in learning.

Perseverance matters for learning and life, and educators must be intentional about helping students develop this trait. But how can we do that most effectively?

This past summer I was blessed to be part of Education Write Now Volume III, a collaborative writing project for educators sponsored by Routledge publishing. The team gathered in Boston for this effort and produced the book in just over 48 hours!

This year's volume, set to be released in December, will feature solutions to common challenges in your classroom or school. Each chapter will address a different challenge.

While the book promises to be a great resource for overcoming education challenges, the proceeds for the book also support a great cause seeking to overcome one of the most pressing challenges imaginable, teen suicide. The Will to Live Foundation supports teen mental health projects and is doing great work in that area.



For my chapter, I shared some thoughts on developing perseverance in students. How can we respond when students show apathy? What are strategies for nurturing grit and growth mindset? How can we ask better questions to encourage honest reflection and self-awareness in students? Those are a few questions I tried to explore.

One thing is for certain, our students are not going to reach their potential or make the most of academic opportunities unless they have an orientation toward working hard and persevering when faced with difficulties. There is great power in perseverance.

Here's an excerpt from my chapter:


As educators, we must plan for teaching students about perseverance just like we would plan for teaching subject matter content. Developing perseverance in students is just as important as learning any academic content and will support the learning of academic content. I believe the investment in educating kids about productive failure will result in increased learning across the board. As a building leader, I also want to support this work and take every opportunity to recognize and celebrate perseverance in our school.


We can all probably agree that perseverance is important and that it’s valuable for kids to develop these skills, but we have to be intentional about creating the structures and systems that support the development of perseverance. We can think it’s important, but what are doing to act like it’s important? Intentions without actions aren’t going to result in any progress.

As you're planning for your classroom or school environment, are you being intentional about character and leadership development? Are you teaching students how to persevere? 

When we see students struggling with an essential life skill, one that's keeping them from academic success, I believe we should be just as intentional about teaching these skills as we are about teaching academic standards. It was an honor for me to share several specific strategies that might prove helpful in #EdWriteNow Vol. III.

So what's it like to write a book in 48 hours? Exhausting? Yes! Exhilarating? Yes! But when you've got a great team to help you through...it's an amazing experience. It's an experience I'll never forget.



What are some of your thoughts on teaching skills like perseverance? Do you feel this is a significant challenge in your classroom? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Do You View Students as Possibilities or Probabilities?


Earlier this month, we hosted a CharacterStrong training in our school. Our presenter was Houston Kraft, CharacterStrong co-founder. He was amazing with the teachers, staff, and even a few students who attended. 

After the day concluded, I couldn't stop thinking about how we must bring more of this type of hope, energy, and connection to the daily life of our school. All schools need this work. It's truly an amazing experience!

As Houston shared with the group, one other idea really jumped out at me from the day. I was reminded just how powerful our lens can be. Our paradigm or perspective can have a powerful impact on the people we interact with. 

It's true that how we see others, including our students, makes a huge difference in how they see themselves. Let me say that again, how you see your students influences how students will see themselves.



So consider this question Houston presented. Do you see your students as probabilities or as possibilities? Do you see their strengths and what's possible for them? Or, do you only see the deficits, challenges, and shortcomings? Do you only see what's probable for them based on how they show up today? Or what might be in their background?

After all, it's easy to build a case for how another person will behave or what they will achieve in the future. We know that in general past performance is often a good predictor of future performance. It's also easy to judge on other factors that limit our students and what they can accomplish.

However, if we want to add value, win hearts and minds, or be agents of change in our relationships, we have to see others for who they are becoming, not just for who they are right now. We have to see them as possibilities and not just probabilities. We have to see them as future world changers, as leaders, as influencers, as difference makers. 

And then we need to encourage them, provide experiences for them, and offer opportunities for them to rise up. How we view others has a big impact on how they view themselves. 


5 Ways to See Students as Possibilities


1. Notice their strengths and reinforce them every chance you get.

Every child in every school needs to hear an encouraging word every day. We need to build on the strengths of our students while simultaneously challenging them to stretch themselves to do hard stuff. 

2. Give them opportunities to lead and have responsibilities.

I love this quote from Booker T Washington...
“Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him, and to let him know that you trust him.” -Booker T. Washington
What are ways you can give a student responsibility and demonstrate your trust in him or her? 

3. Listen to your students and respect their voice, background, and culture.

We need to be very careful about placing judgments on students because of our differences. Instead, we need to listen with caring and curious hearts. We need to recognize we're not there to rescue, fix, or determine their future. We're there to help, support, and influence them as they discover the story they want to create with their lives.

4. View mistakes as learning opportunities.

When we view mistakes as learning opportunities, we are far less likely to sort students or determine what's possible for them based on how they show up right now. Many highly accomplished people have leveraged their challenges, failures, and shortcomings to do amazing things in life. Maybe your student will be one of those stories. And your belief in them can make the difference.

5. Never crush a child's dream.

Yeah, we all know the odds of making it to the NBA are very slim. But my job as an educator is not to remind kids of what they can't do. Encourage their dreams. But at the same time, hold them accountable to the value of other things along the journey too. NBA players need to be coachable, they need to be learners, and they need to solve problems and use their thinking skills. So good news...my classroom can help you get ready for the NBA!

What other tips do you have for seeing students as possibilities? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.
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