Endeavor to Persevere

Bird Droppings March 16, 2010
Endeavor to persevere

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” Albert Einstein

How do you teach perseverance, that stick-to-itiveness that can be a part of the human experience? I watch many teachers flounder when students leave that realm of attention and then teachers claim there is no work ethic. One of my favorites is they have a poor work ethic. So in effect if a student can not do a specific piece of work they have a poor work ethic. An easy solution and I say excuse. I wonder if we have a genetic propensity for work, or is that a modeled behavior, something we have learned or acquired along the way.

“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.” Walter Elliott, The Spiritual Life – “People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.” G.B. Shaw, Mrs. Warren’s Profession, 1893

There is a certain amount of self, involved in perseverance. There is a certain amount of desire to do more than that which is where we are. There is perhaps an ability to not be content with current situations or a desire to do more than we normally do.

“There is no telling how many miles you will have to run while chasing a dream.” Author Unknown

“The drops of rain make a hole in the stone not by violence but by oft falling.” Lucretius

It has been said that mountains are worn away a drop of water at a time and mountains are built up much in the same manner. I recall seeing the limestone formations in caves formed by dripping mineral rich water over thousands of years growing into massive pillars of mineral.

“But the moment you turn a corner you see another straight stretch ahead and there comes some further challenge to your ambition.” Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

I am sure Sherlock Holmes never said “I quit” but quite the contrary often at that moment when all seems lost he would continue on a minute piece of evidence to solve the crime. But how do we teach this wonderful concept of perseverance, how do we instill in students, in children or even in adults to that end. My wife and I were talking a few days back and she mentioned how with some children a disability such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can be good in school staying on task and such. However there is of course the down side when that obsession is coming in and out of the room ten times or giggling incessantly or better yet drumming with a pencil. But how do we get that OCD type attribute in a positive way into others, that intuitive stay with it and get the job down attitude. I recall trying to open a door when we moved in our last house and had a set of keys probably thirty or so and every lock was a different key trying each key one at a time and dropping the ring only to start again. Granted we could not get in till we found the right key for that particular door. First thing I did there was have the doors rekeyed to one key.

“Don’t be discouraged. It’s often the last key in the bunch that opens the lock.” Author Unknown

I really do think nature makes it the last key on purpose. Just it always seems to happen that way it will never be the first key that is the right one. Occasionally I will scan the student drive at school, the public drive which is where students place their projects and files. There are so many that are incomplete, only partial efforts. Some of them are ideas that were great when conceived and left to dwindle. Maybe we could put something in the water fountains at school? Maybe we could find a way to increase adrenalin flow when ideas begin? Maybe we could model the behavior we want? There are so many maybes in this world as I sit here thinking.
So where do we turn? What direction do we look when we try to get students to try one more time? A sneaky favorite of mine is the wonderful twenty minutes to get ten minutes. OK class, there is ten minutes left. After two or three minutes pass, OK class nine more minutes. Amazing if the flow is there how many people will never look at the clock and continue working. I have stretched many ten minutes into twenty or thirty when needed. I was working with two guys who were ready to quit when they started and we got nearly an hour and a half of work done, in only “ten minutes”.

“The great majority of men are bundles of beginnings.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is up to us as parents, teachers and as friends to keep the beginnings going and hopefully to reach endings.

“Saints are sinners who kept on going.” Robert Louis Stevenson

So often in life a great idea is one that was simply continued another step. Thomas Edison is the wonder king of perseverance and even after thousands of failures he kept going and finally found the right combination of glass, gas, and fiber for a light bulb.

“If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.” Buddhist Saying

Sometimes in life it is only turning a child slightly where they can face the right direction and the problem is solved. In working with a group of teachers this past week, so many teachers and parents can not see that there is more than one right direction. It is my way or else attitude always seems to pop up. As I have gotten older and hopefully wiser I have found that we all are different and it is that individualism that is the driving force of mankind. It is finding that persons direction and to keep on walking and to often be there to lend a hand or shoulder when needed. I do not think I was ever a fan of day light savings who needs it when you get up at three in the morning anyhow and enjoy the solitude of early morning but for another day as I have for so lone please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

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