“Everything we do evolves from character and mental toughness because we believe those two things will help us do the work needed to be successful.”
I guess I would call that my core philosophy of teaching and coaching; of educating; of parenting.
Why isn’t it shared? Why are character and mental toughness not even considered worthy of mention in discussions of both individual and institutional failure and achievement?
Saturday morning I watched a roundtable on education (Up with Chris Hayes on MSNBC). The panel included, among others, an NYU professor and a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. These panelists were bright, articulate and invested in education. I admire their efforts to find a means to increase student achievement and address our issues in education and society.
Shortly after that program, I watched my son’s little league game (kindergarten T-Ball).
That brings me to Bryce (not his real name). Bryce is a classmate and teammate of my son. Bryce is constantly in trouble in school. Bryce has even pushed and punched my own son. During Saturday’s game Bryce refused to take the field. When he did take the field, he would sit down in the grass. Bryce mocked members of the other team when they had difficulty hitting the ball. Bryce climbed on the dugout fence when his team was at bat. Bryce stole the baseball cap of a teammate. Bryce shook the coach’s baby carriage; yes, with baby on board. Bryce was defiant when asked to do just about anything. Bryce’s mother sat in her car during the game. She only came out of her car to confront her son after he again refused to stand up in the outfield in the final inning. She said nothing of the earlier behavior.
We happen to live in a nice community. There are children, teenagers, and adults like Bryce everywhere; some much worse. In some communities there are multitudes like Bryce. But no classroom, no neighborhood, is without a Bryce.
What is Bryce’s problem? He lacks character. He does not care about anyone other than himself. He lacks humility. He has no aspirations for teamwork. He lacks effort. He lacks initiative. He has little perseverance. Without those basic traits, he has no chance to make a commitment or to become aware.
We are all born this way. As infants we are concerned only with our own needs. Character and Mental Toughness are hopefully added, and strengthened throughout our journey. Only the foolish would believe these things are not taught. We did not emerge from the womb strong in character and mental toughness.
In their discussion on education, the panelists on television all agreed on one point. They said the evidence is indisputable that a great teacher can make a positive difference and help raise student achievement. What they failed to understand is that the great teacher simply takes the time to teach character and mental toughness first and foremost. The great parent does the same with their child.
There is a silver bullet.
A teacher, a coach, or a parent can be taught character and mental toughness. Academic and community programs can educate these people. In turn, they can then educate the young people they work with. Currently, our best and brightest can not even articulate this, and yet it is the foundation of achievement and the cause of failure.
Has anyone ever taken a class on how to promote character and mental toughness in secular classrooms in this country? At what point will we wake up and realize that this is not only possible, but our only chance to reform our system; our society. Instead, we continue to invest time and money on reform trend after reform trend and still can not replicate the success of that great teacher.
At what point, do we go beyond the great teacher and great parent who have figured these things out on their own and begin to equip the good teacher and good parent with the means to teach character and mental toughness?
I hope someday, enough people teach Bryce Character & Mental Toughness. Because if they don’t he will not succeed in school or much else.
Until we are willing to be pro-active in teaching the character and mental toughness traits we all can agree on, we are no different than Bryce’s mother sitting in the car; dealing with one incident, when we should be dealing with the fundamental issue.