Friday, March 7, 2014

Perseverance - By Jim Moczydlowski

I asked Permission from Jim Moczydlowski (@JMoczydlowski), Principal at Trumbauersville Elementary in the Quakertown Community School District (Quakertown, PA) to share this message. Jim is a great writer, and likely future blogger, who was a former school psychologist prior to becoming a principal. He shares a great deal of wisdom every week, and here is another great example with his thoughts on perseverance. Thanks Jim!


One of the most memorable thoughts on perseverance witnessed in school today came from a first grader in who made the connection between perseverance and commitment, when she said that she wants to improve her reading fluency, and thus practices her reading at home using Raz Kids.

Recently we defined perseverance not as a want, but as a commitment. Perseverance is not about wanting to get better or improving, it is about making a commitment to take action to improve. We said perseverance is not this big overwhelming commitment, but it is a series of small repetitive decisions that we commit to immediately. For example, if I want to become a better basketball player, then I can start today by practicing my dribbling when I get home from school. Sitting around and wanting to be a Michael Jordan isn’t going to make it happen.

Perseverance is about the here and now. It requires action that is within my reach and action I can take immediately. We have to convince kids perseverance is a habit they can develop… Just remind them of how they persevere when they play video games, and they will probably tell you, “Yeah, that’s because we’re motivated!” and then remind them they are motivated because of the success to failure ratio every video game has programmed into it. They are motivated because as they persevere they eventually experience success. The Goldilocks Effect… not too soft not too hard, but just right!

During our meetings I asked the students to think of something they wanted to get better at, and then I asked them the hard question, “What are you willing to do today when you get home to help yourself get better?”   I say this with all due respect, “Let’s stop preaching about perseverance and start to show them how to persevere.” Our job is to help them develop a structure/framework that they can realistically work within to experience success. This is more than a philosophy, it is a habit of repeated action that leads to improved performance regardless of the content or skill that one is focusing on. As teachers, let’s teach our kids how to persevere.

A starting point is to help the child create a system to self-monitor/track the trials of effort in relationship to the noticeable improvements. Like the first grader, the more time spent practicing reading, the higher the fluency rate goes up. Share your personal stories with your students, of how you have persevered over time. Bring this habit to life through your example. With our most challenging students, let us persevere in teaching them the habit of perseverance.

“Perseverance is not a long race: It is many short races, one after another.”
Walter Elliot