I have had this post in a half written form for some time now ever since in fact I read this quote.

The ability to focus on the boring as well as the fun is more important than intelligence for a child to do well.

Yesterday I was glancing through the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper on the staff room table, when I came across this article in the same vein. Courage can get pupils through academic blues’.

Professor Andrew Martin, from the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney, examined four approaches to schoolwork – confidence, courage, avoidance and helplessness – among more than 7600 students from 14 Australian high schools.

He found it paid to persevere, that courageous students, those who persisted in the classroom, despite difficulties and anxieties, could do just as well as their confident peers.

In my opinion the words perseverance and persistence are key here. As I am sure that it is a student’s ability to persist with a challenge, whether that challenge is interesting, or difficult or frightening, or boring that reaps rewards in the long term. I see students who regularly give up on a task when the going gets tough and others who keep plugging away at the same task until they crack it. I see some who are happy to accept mediocre work and others who ask for advice and deliberately seek my help in order to perfect a task.

In many ways reading this has raised more questions than it has answered.

  • How is that some students are not distracted by the minutia of classroom life?
  • How is it that some students can focus and continue to persist when others around them cannot?
  • How can I develop in all my students the inner strength to keep on with a challenge even when it is hard or difficult or boring or lengthy?
  • What can we as teachers do to assist a student to persevere and to persist?

I know that my aim is to create a classroom culture of thinking and learning. A classroom where students are encouraged to give everything a go and not to fear failure. A classroom when all opinions are valued. Yet I also know that at any given moment in the classroom I cannot be watching, assisting and guiding every student. That inevitably there will be times in every day that  some will be persisting and persevering on their own, while others may not.

Last Friday afternoon came at the end of a busy week. I placed a list of possible activities for the students to complete on the board and for an hour they chose what to complete. Read this post and view our slide show. Watch for a photo showing two students in the locker room. They had self directed themselves to a quiet spot and were catching up on some incomplete work. To my mind they were persevering and persisting. Even a Friday afternoon!

What do you do to encourage your students to persist and persevere even when the going gets tough?

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