"It's not that I’m so smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer."—Albert Einstein
What does it take to persevere in the face of tough class assignments or even boredom? Is perseverance a trait students are born with, or is it a skill set, an attitude they can develop over time?
Online schools help foster student perseverance by empowering them to take greater responsibility for their own learning as they mature. For parents and Learning Coaches new to online school, it’s important to know that your students can develop the power to persevere—and that you can help.
It all begins with the right mind-set.
Mind-Set: Building the Foundations to Persevere
Think about it. Does your student believe he or she is simply "bad" at a particular subject, that no amount of effort can make up for a lack of natural talent? From this faulty fixed mind-set, perseverance or persistence is pointless. Giving up in the face of difficulty seems logical.
But for students who understand that talent and intelligence can be developed through effort and hard work, persevering just makes sense. From this growth mind-set, perseverance eventually pays off.
Fortunately, there are simple strategies you can use to both reinforce the growth mind-set and empower your students to persevere. Here are four tips for teaching perseverance.
4 Tips for Promoting Perseverance
1. Encourage positive self-talk and mindfulness.
"I'm just no good at this."
"This is too hard."
"I'm too far behind to catch up."
Telltale signs of a fixed mind-set, statements such as these can sap your student’s willpower and your patience. Remind your students that they would never say such negative things to a friend who was struggling with a problem.
When faced with negative self-assessments, help your student reframe them into more positive ones, such as:
“I’m not good at this, YET!”
"This is hard, but if I keep trying, I will eventually get it."
"I’m behind now, but I can come up with a plan to catch up."
To help students break the cycle of negative thinking, encourage them to practice mindfulness—the process of observing their thoughts and feelings without judgment. Age-appropriate mindfulness techniques can help calm self-doubts and give students a greater sense of self-control, a prerequisite for persistence.
2. Praise effort and process, not intelligence.
We used to believe that telling kids they were smart would boost their self-confidence and academic performance. But studies now show that this kind of praise can discourage student perseverance by suggesting effort is less important to success than intelligence.
To help them learn perseverance, praise students for completing difficult assignments and focus on how hard they tried. Be specific in complimenting the process they used to tackle their tasks, such as breaking large goals into smaller tasks. To reinforce the growth mindset, point out how their abilities are growing through their own hard work.
3. Put failures and mistakes into a growth perspective.
Some students, especially perfectionists, have an excessive fear of failure. They avoid it by giving up on subjects or activities that don’t come easily. Other students mistakenly equate a failure with a lack of intelligence or talent, taking needless hits to their self-esteem. Your own reaction to failure can make a powerful impact. When your students face setbacks, explain that failure is an expected part of the learning process that actually helps build intelligence and stamina. Taking a matter-of-fact approach, encourage your students to analyze what went wrong, seek help where needed, and try again…and again.
4. Give your students the chance to struggle.
As a Learning Coach, you may be tempted to rush in to help when you see your students struggling with an assignment or problem. But struggle is essential to building self-confidence, independence, and perseverance. Resist the urge to intervene immediately, thereby allowing them time to figure it out on their own. (You can always intervene later if you see the struggle is becoming unproductive or too frustrating.)
By trying these approaches, you can help your child grow in tenacity and focus—character traits that contribute to success in college and in career. An added bonus is that when students do succeed after struggling, the victory is all theirs. And with virtual school, you can be there to enjoy each success and take pride in seeing your child develop a "can-do" spirit!
Accredited online schools like Connections Academy help develop student perseverance by empowering them to become independent learners as they mature. Perseverance examples (aka stories from our students overcoming education challenges) come in all shapes and sizes.
If your student is currently enrolled in a brick-and-mortar school or you are homeschooling and are interested in exploring online school, take a look at these sample school schedules built by families to start exploring the flexibility (and other) benefits of online school.