I have a student teacher. He has taken over a couple of my classes. He has done a great job so far. He knows his content. He varies his methods of instruction. He incorporates technology into his lessons. He appeals to the various learning styles. In short, he has covered all the bases. He recently gave his first test. In a class of 20 students, I asked him why he thought some kids passed the test while others failed.
He said some of the students are very intelligent and pay attention. They got A’s. Some of the students are not very intelligent in regards to the content area and did not study or pay attention. They failed the test. Most of the kids are in between. The ones who studied and paid attention got B’s. The ones who were inconsistent in studying and paying attention earned C’s. The ones who seldom studied and paid attention received D’s.
All of the gobbly-gook in education makes us lose sight of the obvious. Students who do the work fair better than those who do not do the work. Yup. Regardless of socio-economic factors, and every other statistic or variable you could think to apply. Kids who do the work do much better than the kids who don’t.
So who does the work? Those students with an understanding of character and mental toughness.
How does a student develop character and mental toughness? They need to be taught.
Who teaches character and mental toughness? ____________.
At one point in my 17 year teaching career I was confronted by an administrator and asked to explain why about a fifth of my students failed in one particular section of a course I taught. My answer was the lack of character and mental toughness of the students who had failed. I’m not so sure that went over too well. But did it make it less true?
We spend a great deal of time and money on educational gimmicks. Maybe we should use those resources in developing the character and mental toughness of those we educate.
I have coached 20 football seasons, 15 lacrosse seasons, and five basketball seasons. The players who were talented and worked hard have done the best. The players who had little talent and poor work ethic have done the worst. Most were somewhere in between. They had average talent. The ones who did what they were coached to do, and worked hard, did well. The ones who were inconsistent in following instruction and applying their work ethic remained quite average. Those who seldom did what they were told and did not practice particularly hard were pretty bad. The same could be said of their teams as a whole.
On one occasion a former player came up to me following one of our teams playoff wins. He asked me why his team had not succeeded in making the playoffs. I told him his team did not have enough guys with character and mental toughness. Because of that, his team did not do all of the work we had asked them to do, while the playoff team had.
During lacrosse practice the other day, I watched as our players had begun to do our daily warm-up routine in a lackadaisical manner. I blew the whistle and brought them over. I asked them why I was fat? They looked a little puzzled, and then one brazenly said because I eat too many donuts. We laughed. I then asked them how many programs were advertized for weight loss. They all chimed in offering up the multitude they had seen advertized for sale on television or in book stores. I then told them the answer to fat loss was pretty simple. Eat less. Exercise more. Neither of which needs to cost me a dime. I just need to do the work. If they want to succeed, they will have to do the work. Nothing fancy. Do the work.
We have an innate tendency to make things more complicated and complex than they need to be. This is a result of our innate instinct to find efficient answers for our problems. But in doing so we often find ourselves victimized by our own instinct as it distracts us from the simple solution. Start doing the work. Do the work consistently.
I may seem like Captain Obvious, but I am always amazed by how little coaches and teachers focus on what truly differentiates those who succeed from those who don’t. Screening out for exceptional talent or intelligence, or a true lack of them, most of us are somewhere in between. Our character and mental toughness will determine how well we do. So chase it, coach it, teach it, parent it, administrate it, friend it. If character and mental toughness are the most important determinants for success, than make them the most important things we do. They are what gets us to consistently do the work!
“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, & the world around us.” -Socrates
“For as the eyes of bats are to the blaze of day, so is the reason in our soul to the things which are by nature most evident of all.” -Aristotle
“There’s none so deaf as those who will not hear.” -English Proverb
“Success is not something you pursue. Success is something you attract by the person you become.” -Jim Rohn