The Value of Persistence

Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
Calvin Coolidge (1872 - 1933)

While it is wonderful to have ability, it does little good if it is not applied. Teachers blame parents for not instilling persistence in their children. Parents blame teachers for not encouraging their child’s intellect with challenging work. The question remains: is persistence a characteristic with which one is born, or is it a trait that is taught or encouraged?

In this age of instant gratification, it can be agonizing for individuals to develop persistence. Shortly after being given a task, even very capable students may approach an adult saying “I can’t do this,” or “It’s too hard.”

Students often jump to conclusions. The teacher asks a difficult question and hands are immediately raised. The students respond with the first answers that pop into their minds without being truly thoughtful with their replies. Being first and being right frequently take precedence over the consideration of different approaches to the posed problem.

Persistence is a key factor in the success not only of students, but of adults. Think of the long hours and effort that is required to be a successful entrepreneur or an inventor. This attribute of perseverance often begins in childhood.

Energy and persistence conquer all things.
Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790)

All students, even those who come from privileged backgrounds, need to be persistent to be successful. Unfortunately, some students come from difficult backgrounds where it is sheer persistence that enables them to succeed against the odds. It is the ability to persevere that helps lift a person out of a difficult socioeconomic condition, a dysfunctional family, an inadequate educational experience, or a personal tragedy.

Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seems to be no hope at all.
Dale Carnegie

Things to consider when evaluating the persistence level of a student
  • Does persistence appear to be natural in this student?
  • How does this person respond when something becomes difficult?
  • Are all attempts stopped at the first stumbling block?
  • Is the student constantly asking for help rather than working on a task or problem alone?
  • Does he not do part or all of homework assignments because he doesn’t understand a problem at first glance?
  • Is it difficult for the student to stay focused for more than a few minutes?

Ways to encourage persistence
  • Model persistence both through one’s own actions and by sharing stories about others who are persistent.
  • Help the student develop a game plan for analyzing problems. When presented with a problem, how does one begin? What steps need to be taken? What information needs to be generated or collected?
  • Help the student create a series of strategies for solving problems. If one doesn’t work, move to another. It is more helpful to learn three ways to solve one problem than one way to solve three problems.

Resources for examples of people who were persistent

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