Bob is a Minister in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas
Isn’t it great when we recognize some potential in children or students? We
can see that they have an ability to write or communicate well. Maybe we see
a knack for understanding math, or the sciences just seem to come easily, or
maybe there is a natural leadership ability. We get excited for them and
imagine all the advantages this will give them. And yet for many of these
talents because of a lack of restraint or diligence, these young people never
quite get to see this potential developed in their lives. How many people have
said, “If I had just kept a closer watch on the finances, or if I had taken
better care of that relationship, or I had kept up with my studies”? It is so
true that one consistent characteristic of successful people is diligence.
Having an ability to choose pain now, for gain later, is a great asset. The
plans of the diligent really do take a person to the level he/she wants to go.
How can we teach this to those we see? What exactly can we do to help them
develop this quality?
Here are 5 thoughts that might help us get to get talented students to the
place where they can really exercise the talents they own.
1. Tell stories. Nothing inspires like stories. Tell your students stories
of how restraint helped great men and women get them where they wanted to go.
Thomas said of his experiments that it was 10% inspiration and 90%
perspiration. Here is another example on holding on when you feel like
quitting. On a commuter flight from Portland, Maine, to Boston, Henry Dempsey,
the pilot, heard an unusual noise near the rear of the small aircraft. He
turned the controls over to his co-pilot and went back to check it out. As he
reached the tail section, the plane hit an air pocket, and Dempsey was tossed
against the rear door. He quickly discovered the source of the mysterious
noise. The rear door had not been properly latched prior to takeoff, and it
flew open. He was instantly sucked out of the jet. The co-pilot, seeing the
red light that indicated an open door, radioed the nearest airport, requesting
permission to make an emergency landing. He reported that the pilot had
fallen out of the plane, and he requested a helicopter search of that area of
the ocean. After the plane landed, they found Henry Dempsey – holding onto
the outdoor ladder of the aircraft. Somehow he had caught the ladder, held on
for ten minutes as the plane flew 200 mph at an altitude of 4,000 feet, and
then, at landing, kept his head from hitting the runway, which was a mere
twelve inches away. It took airport personnel several minutes to pry
Dempsey’s fingers from the ladder. Things in life may be turbulent, and you
may not feel like holding on. But have you considered the alternative?
Here is another story on perseverance: During a Monday night football game
between the Chicago Bears and the New York Giants, one of the announcers
observed that Walter Payton, the Bears’ running back, had accumulated over
nine miles in career rushing yardage. The other announcer remarked, “Yeah,
and that’s with someone knocking him down every 4.6 yards!” Walter Payton,
the most successful running back ever, knows that everyone- even the best-gets
knocked down. The key to success is to get up and run again just as hard.
-Jeff Quandt in Leadership-Vol. 9, #1.
2. Do a project that requires self restraint on the students to complete it.
For example, say: We are going to do a car wash at 8:00 Saturday morning.
Delegate to each student some responsibility. Everyone has to do his part. Set
a goal of a certain amount of dollars to use for your class, or better yet
give a portion of it away to someone who can’t afford something they need.
Allow there to be a reward for the accomplishment of this project, while at
the same time describing to the kids how some rewards are a long time coming.
3. Have the students memorize and speak a phrase until it is ingrained in
their hearts. Phrases like, “The early bird gets the worm,” or “He who
hesitates is lost”. Tell a story that exemplifies these adages and allow the
students to give other examples and openly talk about them. Put the phrases
on the wall around the room.
My friend Dan Lawless and I ran the 1995 New York Marathon together. Neither
one of us is a super jock, and we knew we needed each other to keep our
commitment up. So we came up with this phrase, “Never give up, and never
alone.” It helped us crash through the inevitable quitting point.
4. We live in a culture that hesitates to reward kids who achieve for fear of
hurting the feelings of those who have not developed self control enough to be successful.
As students accomplish a task, honor them before the class- even if they
don’t win at a project, honor their striving. What we do not realize is that
we are really robbing children of the challenge of striving for some goal
without being immobilized by the fear of failure. We should encourage children
that real failure is those who never try. One of my favorite quotes is this
one by Teddy Roosevelt.
FAR BETTER IT IS TO DARE MIGHTY THINGS, TO WIN GLORIOUS TRIUMPH, EVEN THOUGH
CHECKERED BY FAILURE, THAN TO RANK WITH THOSE POOR SPIRITS WHO NEITHER ENJOY
MUCH NOR SUFFER MUCH, BECAUSE THEY LIVE IN THE GRAY TWILIGHT THAT KNOWS
NEITHER VICTORY NOR DEFEAT.
5. Set aside two weeks and create an emotional oasis in your classroom by
setting a standard of words and attitudes that may be spoken to each other.
For two weeks words will be spoken that build up other students. The normal
ridicule and mocking humor will not be tolerated during this two week period.
During this time the standard attitude will be cheerfulness. When students
say it is just fake, say, “No, we are doing it on purpose.” You will be
helping students control that part of them that seems so uncontrollable-
theiremotions. Remember nothing will help the student learn restraint more
than seeing the educator model self control toward them, as well as sharing
how restraint helped you. Tell stories of how restraint helped you finish
school, and how self control and restraint benefited you when you needed to
study and everyone else wanted to go out. Tell how saying “no” to what you wanted to do and
“yes” to what you needed do, helped get you where you are. Maybe you could
even share some of your failures due to your own procrastination or
indecisiveness. Let’s help each student become that he/she has the potential
to be. More work for you? Surely, all these things can be a challenge to the
educator, but I believe it may just tap into that part of you that first
wanted to be a educator.
– Bob Ordeman