Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Can Kids Be Taught Persistence?

If you have read this blog for any length of time, you know my answer: yes, and it is imperative that we do so.

This article agrees with me.

“What I think is important on the road to success is learning to deal with failure, to manage adversity. That’s a skill that parents can certainly help their children develop—but so can teachers and coaches and mentors and neighbors and lots of other people.”

So how do we do it?

There is a report that accompanies the above-referenced article, and you can read a four-page brief here.

At the core of the brief is the concept of deeper learning. Everything stems from this one idea, that students should be allowed/encouraged to go deeper into a subject rather than simply skating across the top (the antithesis of mile-wide-inch-deep curricula). Students should collaborate, question and explain their thinking and the thinking of experts, classmates and teachers.

To this I would add the most important part of all: create an atmosphere where kids feel safe to fail. We don't do this in traditional school.

Fail the test and you're out.

Screw up the experiment and you fail.

Fail and you're a failure.

Silly. Imagine if Steve Jobs thought that. Or Edison. Or any number of other magical thinkers, many of whom were terrible students in school but brilliant when removed from the confines of that model. Failure is an opportunity.

Let's be honest, though: failing isn't fun. Every time I write about allowing kids to fail I think about this TedTalk on being wrong. It is one of my favorite talks, mostly because it talks about what it feels like to be wrong (bad) not being wrong, in and of itself (totally okay).

If we can create conditions for kids where it doesn't feel quite so bad to be wrong, maybe we can encourage more risk-taking. And if we encourage more risk-taking, maybe we can help kids develop persistence in the face of "failure."

And isn't this what we want? Kids with grit and determination?

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