How do you teach persistence? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 17 Old 09-30-2010, 01:29 PM - Thread Starter
 
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especially to middle school-aged kids? Also asking this question in "Learning at School."

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#2 of 17 Old 09-30-2010, 02:02 PM
 
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I really think modeling is the most powerful teaching tool - all the lessons in the world cannot add up to the power of seeing something working before one's eyes. - Lillian
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#3 of 17 Old 09-30-2010, 02:24 PM
 
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leading by example...

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#4 of 17 Old 09-30-2010, 02:50 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Other than leading by example. Anything else?

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#5 of 17 Old 09-30-2010, 03:42 PM
 
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It wasn't intentional, but my dd's swim lessons have taught her persistence. She can remember when she didn't want to get her head under water. She loves to swim now. When I had my first a-ha! moment on this - we had her in swim because it was a good skill to have, and a lifelong physical activity she could enjoy. Then I realized that she was learning how to try, fail, try again, refine and improve. It's what I want her to feel comfortable doing for the rest of her life.

So -- something like that you can do with your child? Or something like that which you can use as an example for your kid, that they've already done?

Not all who wander are lost.
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#6 of 17 Old 09-30-2010, 03:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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So -- something like that you can do with your child? Or something like that which you can use as an example for your kid, that they've already done?
This is a philosophical discussion as well as a practical one - this is for my job as a teacher and a tutor, attempting to motivate students, especially in adolescence.

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#7 of 17 Old 09-30-2010, 04:21 PM
 
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Bring them to a candy store and show them a strong-willed child and a wavering parent.

Welcome to the Real World she said to me, condescendingly, take a seat. Take your life; plot it out in black and white.
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#8 of 17 Old 09-30-2010, 04:30 PM
 
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My parents always helped us focus on an end goal. Even with Middle Schoolers, you could use some sort of rewards-type chart which shows them leading to their ultimate goal. You could also illustrate this with saving money. (Another good habit to get into.)

Another thing is to have them write themselves a note (or what not) about what they're trying to learn/do, how difficult it is, etc. And then ask them to commit to working a little bit each day for the next week, two weeks, month (whatever)... and then have them go back and read it. I remember in sixth grade having so much trouble with latin. It was near mid-terms, so my Mom had me go back to chapter 1 and try some of the exercises. They were pretty easy. So, she told me even though I had struggled for the past few months, I was still a lot further along then I would have been had I quit.

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#9 of 17 Old 09-30-2010, 05:27 PM
 
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This is a philosophical discussion as well as a practical one - this is for my job as a teacher and a tutor, attempting to motivate students, especially in adolescence.
I agree about modeling and using examples from their own life.

When the goal is something a person wants for him/herself, but they're getting discouraged, I try to find examples of others who have done the same thing and point out that they had to practice, or that they tried and failed many times before succeeding.

But, if you're talking about motivating someone to do something that they don't WANT to do, that's a different thing. I guess you could point out to them why they'd want to do it, how it would benefit them, etc. But I think they need to want it for themselves for it to have any meaning.

I'm not a fan of rewards charts for anyone, but I can't even imagine using a rewards chart with teens. The eye-rolling might be enough to pull the earth off its axis.

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#10 of 17 Old 09-30-2010, 05:51 PM - Thread Starter
 
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SagMom, the eye roll comment made me laugh out loud. Sometimes it's so bad you can actually hear their eyes scraping the back of their skull...

Yes, persistence on a task they don't want to do. This is my focus. It's not hard to persist with something you like. I'm talking about the other stuff.

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#11 of 17 Old 09-30-2010, 06:08 PM
 
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Among the teens, I know--rewards do work (doesn't have to be a chart). Probably the best is $$$. As a teacher/tutor, you could work towards some sort of class reward. Some things that I've known teachers to use are have class outside (maybe not as practical heading into Fall/Winter), some sort of fun education activity that ties into the lesson (Jeopardy, movie/DVD, computer games, field trip), and food rewards. Thinking back to Latin class, we worked towards having a toga party. I also know of one who would waive the final exam or a big test if grades were of a certain level leading up to the exam or offer the alternative of doing some sort of fun (well more fun than a test) project.

Another thing that comes to mind is looking at other ways to teach that engage the students more. (Not that you haven't thought about that, I'm sure. ) What are the dreaded topics?

Mom to DS(8), DS(6), DD(4), and DS(1).  "Kids do as well as they can."

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#12 of 17 Old 09-30-2010, 07:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'd rather not get specific; it really is a question about motivation and not necessarily teaching technique or motivation (and it is individual, so I have a lot of flexibility in how I approach whatever we are working on). I am speaking of two students I tutor, but I really just wanted to know people's thoughts in general - how do we learn, as adults, to do the things we hate to do, even though we would rather be doing nearly anything else?

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#13 of 17 Old 09-30-2010, 07:31 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Suzannah View Post
I am speaking of two students I tutor, but I really just wanted to know people's thoughts in general - how do we learn, as adults, to do the things we hate to do, even though we would rather be doing nearly anything else?
I think it depends on what the reason might be for doing things we hate to do - if it's to please someone else, that very different from doing them for oneself. I think people learn best about persistence for obtaining their own goals by seeing impressive modeling, and by life experience that demonstrates the effectiveness of persistence. But doing something we hate because someone else thinks it's important may never happen - unless we happen to have exceptional respect for that person's judgement because of having repeatedly seeing the wisdom of it show itself.

- Lillian

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#14 of 17 Old 09-30-2010, 08:03 PM
 
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The thing about rewards though, is that the person does the task in order to get the reward rather than for the sake of the knowledge/skill gained by doing the task.

So if the reward is a party, they might do the math/English/whatever work to get the party and not because they see value in learning math/English. If just getting the work done is enough and they're motivated by the reward then you've got your result--but I think it would be important to recognize that this doesn't mean they necessarily find value in the subject they're studying.

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...how do we learn, as adults, to do the things we hate to do, even though we would rather be doing nearly anything else?
For me, there would have to be value in learning the thing--not some unrelated reward, but REAL value in the actual thing I'm learning, otherwise, why would I bother to learn it? Even when it comes to things like chores I need to see a value--I don't like doing dishes, but I like to have clean plates to eat off of, so I do them when necessary. If I had an endless supply of dishes though, I wouldn't be motivated to wash them by the promise of some reward.

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#15 of 17 Old 09-30-2010, 08:27 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Suzannah View Post
but I really just wanted to know people's thoughts in general - how do we learn, as adults, to do the things we hate to do, even though we would rather be doing nearly anything else?
I think part is conforming to social norms... part is realizing on some level that even doing the stuff we hate to do has value.... or finally realizing that in many cases it's much easier to tackle things earlier than procrastinate (cleaning comes to mind.) Usually, by the time we're adults, we've already learned from negative/natural consequences on why procrastination/laziness is not in our best interest.

Regarding your students, I think part of the difficulty is that as students, we don't always see the big picture... or see the value. For me, with Latin, I never really got how useful knowing it would be (even though many adults said so)... until I was in college and beyond. Had I realized that, I probably would have studied more and pursued it for more than one year. So, I think to motivate them, you need to find out how studying (or whatever) meets some needs that they have... be they helping them reach some far off goal, making a course easier, or as immediate as getting their parents off of their back.

A good friend's daughter failed geometry. Her parents thought part of the issue was her social nature in geometry class--so pulled her out to homeschool through a virtual academy for the following year. Her grades were great, but she was miserable. She hated the amount of work and missed her friends. She was allowed to go back to high school, but she's learned that if she goofs off again, they'll pull her out again until she graduates. Natural consequences (failing) have proven to be very effective motivators. This year, she has an A so far in pre-calc.

Mom to DS(8), DS(6), DD(4), and DS(1).  "Kids do as well as they can."

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#16 of 17 Old 09-30-2010, 10:10 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Suzannah View Post
I am speaking of two students I tutor, but I really just wanted to know people's thoughts in general - how do we learn, as adults, to do the things we hate to do, even though we would rather be doing nearly anything else?
I have put a lot of thought and effort into helping my children learn persistence. When they were very young I encouraged them to take up pursuits that I knew would require (and benefit from!) long-term persistence. While I jollied them along with fun and games in the early stages, I simultaneously made an effort to document the work they were doing and the progress they were making. Sometimes people use rewards to prod kids along, but I don't really believe in that. Personally I think that sometimes rewards can be used in ways that aren't toxic to intrinsic motivation, but that in those cases the rewards are acting more as tangible measurements of good work done. So I prefer to dispense with the reward aspect and just do the tangible measurement.

So, for example, in our case the main arena for this was stringed instrument study. I made things fun in the early stages, but at the same time I helped my kids keep track of how much practicing they'd done with stickers or beads or an abacus, and I video-taped them at the outset and as they made progress. And before long they were their own object lessons: they had an archived history of their own progress that they could revisit to remind themselves of the power of daily diligence and small steady gains. This has served them very well as they've taken on other areas.

The key to this approach, though, is that the work has to be meaningful to them in some way. That's not to say that it always has to be inherently enjoyable. But they have to understand the connection -- really understand it -- between the hard work they are doing and the long-term goal that they will likely realize as a result of that work. That's why I'm not sure what I'm saying will be terribly applicable to teens who do not feel there's any meaning to the work other people are asking them to do.

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#17 of 17 Old 09-30-2010, 10:24 PM
 
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Hmm, IMO, I think anybody will keep trying as long as (a) they believe that effort will eventually allow them to succeed and (b) they believe the payoff is worth the effort.

For (a), the problem is that some people feel that the ability to do certain things (or everything) is something you're either born with or not born with--and if you're not born with it, you're screwed! This is where the idea of not praising children too much comes from. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success is on this topic.

(b) is a little more clear cut.

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Yes, persistence on a task they don't want to do. This is my focus. It's not hard to persist with something you like. I'm talking about the other stuff.
There's a dark side to persistence, also known as the sunk cost fallacy. Would you keep eating a bowl of ice cream after you got a tummy ache and weren't enjoying it, just because you'd already paid for it? Would you keep spending $15 per month and a couple hours per day on an online video game that you've grown bored with because you've already got to level 53 and everyone says it gets fun again at level 80? Stay with your abusive boyfriend because you've been with him this long and he seems he might be shaping up? Hold on to those stocks you've already lost money on because the company might recover someday? Those are extreme examples, but quitting the baseball team or choosing to settle for a C in your algebra class could be the same kind of thing for some people in some situations.

Most things that are worthwhile--even things we're doing for fun--have some parts to them that are hard and make us tempted to give up or at least procrastinate, but there are also times were it's just not worth it and you should quit now to cut your losses. (And I can think of plenty of times during my school years where, in retrospect, I wish I'd worked less or quit sooner, so I don't think the fact that it's academic automatically places something in the "worthwhile" category.) I'm not sure how you'd teach someone this. How do you know which is which for someone else?

Quote:
...how do we learn, as adults, to do the things we hate to do, even though we would rather be doing nearly anything else?
Well, I rarely do anything I don't want to do. I don't like my job, but I want to go, because I want the consequences of having gone and done my work. If I really didn't want to go, I'd just stay in bed. I don't have to go. Nothing's forcing me (certainly not "social conditioning"!). I go because I took an honest look at my options, and it's the one I want.

Same goes for doing the dishes, finishing the line art for a picture I'm drawing for the fun of it, etc.. It's very rare that you ever have to do anything.
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