“In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins- not through strength but by perseverance.” – H. Jackson Brown
In those moments that are really hard, where we are challenged the most and feel like giving up, what do we call upon to get through the difficulty? Let’s face it. The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged many of us in ways that we might never have imagined. Combine the pandemic with our nation’s ongoing racial reckoning and impact of climate change and it might feel insurmountable. How do we build perseverance personally and in our children to develop the confidence to tackle difficult problems and continue to look for solutions even if things initially seem unsolvable? Perseverance is critical to addressing challenging problems, whether they are one’s own difficulties, or reaching aspirational goals as a community or country.
As one of the qualities identified under “Emotional Intelligence” in Roycemore’s Portrait of a Graduate, the curriculum and student experiences are thoughtfully designed to help students learn to persevere. We value hard work and pushing through obstacles. One of the Lower School’s morning meeting themes is about perseverance. To build a greater understanding of this trait, Ms. Taylor-Pines had the students make card towers. “This was hard for them, but I made them do it for 5 minutes every morning for a week, in order to encourage them to keep going when things are hard,” she shared. Second-grade students engage in engineering and problem solving as part of their simple machines unit. The challenges presented to them are sometimes quite complicated and the students have to persevere as they build new machines.
When one quits, avoids a situation, or cheats rather than works through a difficult challenge, the challenge doesn’t disappear. In fact, we are often presented with the same challenge over and over again in life until we learn the lesson we are meant to learn. Building the skill of perseverance, along with determination and resilience is key to accomplishing many goals in life.
Perseverance has to be learned and then further developed. When one accomplishes a simple goal, one learns that they can be successful and that they have the innate ability to problem solve again at a greater level of difficulty. French teacher, Brynn Leavitt, shares, “I regularly call students’ attention to what they can do now that they couldn’t do 2/4/8 weeks ago, trying to reinforce the value of continuing to make an effort towards our goals.”
Learning perseverance isn’t limited to academic classes. Drama provides great opportunities for students to learn to persevere. As Lizanne Wilson shares, “Wonderful and inspiring art doesn’t happen without hard work. I scaffold assignments to build in exercises in perseverance. Students feel better when they understand that hard work pays huge dividends in art and in learning.” Athletics provides additional opportunities to learn to work through challenges. Roycemore’s no-cut athletic policy fosters teamwork and builds character, including persistence.
In 2018, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Technology published a report on critical success factors of grit, tenacity, and perseverance in the education setting. The report highlighted that students will persist more when they perceive they are treated fairly, with respect, and when they believe adults care for them. Early responses from Roycemore’s recent all-school parent survey indicate that close to 97% of parents agree or strongly agree that each child feels well known by the school and is comfortable being themself. The Department of Education report also promotes project-based learning and design thinking as educational models that foster the skill of perseverance as students engage in challenging problem-solving activities that require “planning, monitoring, feedback, and iteration.” This pedagogical approach is embraced school-wide at Roycemore.
The same Department of Education report on developing perseverance states that students will persist more when there are high expectations. As Roycemore students progress through the academic program eventually to their high school experience, expectations for students increase. “AP Bio/AP Chem students are expected to think at a much higher level and AP-style questions require synthesis of knowledge from multiple topics, analysis of experimental design and data, and increased critical thinking,” states Upper School teacher Shannon Henry. “This is always difficult at the beginning of the year and students often score lower than they are used to on tests but continue to practice and get better at AP questions to perform well on the exam in May.” Likewise, Dr. John Trowbridge relates, “By encouraging a growth mindset in students, we can help them to see the value of persisting in their efforts to solve a problem. We regularly urge them to keep at it. We encourage them to try a new approach.”
As I think about the many challenges that our society is facing, I am comforted in knowing that we are committed to fostering the skill of perseverance through our program at Roycemore so that our students will have the confidence, tenacity, and perseverance to persist and problem solve.
In partnership for the education of your students,
Adrianne Finley Odell
Head of School