This squirrel's odyssey over the wall is much like the many examples of success in Malcolm Gladwell's latest book Outliers . Mr. Gladwell marshalls evidence to support his thesis that successful people reach their high levels of achievement owing more to their opportunities, combined with hard work and persistence then their native intelligence or genius. Persistence gets high billing in Gladwell's thinking. He noted a student who was videotaped working through a difficult math problem. She came up with the answer after 22 minutes of toil and sweat. Asian students were also cited as having more staying power to work through math problems when compared to their US counterparts.
So, how can we incorporate this idea into our schools and classrooms? Here are some thoughts and ideas:
- Teach kids about the power of the brain to grow and learn. Here's how Larry Ferlazzo did this with his high school students: Growing Brains
- Give less problems that are more demanding and require lengthy solutions.
- Gradually build students' stamina to work on challenging problems.
- Celebrate and recognize effort and persistence as often as achievement.
- Have teachers model this type of learning for students.
- Develop this type of thinking with adult learning and school problems.
When my son was playing soccer last year (a sport where he is not anywhere near the very best), I encouraged him to try his best and never give up. He took those words to heart and had a very positive year, drastically improving his skills and contributing handsomely by the end of the year. Winston Churchill's famous "Never Give up" speech is another good example of this critical ingredient for success. This last fellow also had something to say on the subject and I think he had his fair share of academic success.
"It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer." - Albert Einstein