Sharing ideas on Education, Leadership and Life

Thursday, October 18, 2012


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The conclusion of the High Holiday season marks the transition to the heart of the school year and a focus on academic achievement.  The primary goal for parents and teachers alike is to see our children and students succeed both in school and in life. 
What lessons and guidance can we provide our children to place them on the path of success?  Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks provides us some insight into this process in his recent weblog (10/13/12)  entitled “Credo: More than we have faith in God, God has faith in us”. He says:

“What makes some children succeed while others fail? More generally, what drives some people to great achievement while others languish, their dreams unfulfilled? That is the question that intrigued American writer Paul Tough. His answer is contained in his book How Children Succeed, published last month.
Tough discovered that what makes the difference is not intelligence, skill or native ability. It isn’t cognitive at all. The difference, he argues, lies in character, in traits such as discipline, persistence, self-control, zest, gratitude, optimism, curiosity, courage and conscientiousness. One dimension, though, matters more than all the others. He calls it grit: the ability to keep going despite repeated failures and setbacks. People with grit grow. People without it are either defeated by life’s challenges or – more likely – become risk-averse. They play it safe.” 

It may seem counter intuitive that cognition, intelligence or skill will not solely 
pre-determine a person to great accomplishments, rather, learning to deal effectively with challenges and adversity is the most important lesson of all.  We see this all the time in educational settings and in life – children are always learning from their mistakes.    We need to teach our kids what “grit” means -  how to get-up, dust off their pants, stand tall and  prevail over limitations and shortcomings.   In my office, there hangs a sign stating “We all make mistakes.  It is what we happens after we make the mistakes that matters.”

Mistakes, failures and difficult situations do not cease to exist when a child leaves the protective confines of school.  Trials and tribulations continue throughout one’s life.   Many of us both in our personal, professional and even our communal lives have faced disappointments and setbacks. What gives us the “grit” or the resolve to continue? Rabbi Sacks provides some personal insight into this question as well. He says,

 “ I learned to embrace failure instead of fearing it. Why? Because at some point on my religious journey I discovered that more than we have faith in God, God has faith in us. He lifts us every time we fall. He forgives us every time we fail. He believes in us more than we believe in ourselves. He mends our broken hearts. I never cease to be moved by the words of Isaiah: “Even youths grow tired and weary and the young may stumble and fall, but those who hope in the Lord renew their strength. They soar on wings like eagles, they run and don’t grow weary, they walk and don’t grow faint.”
The greatest source of grit I know, the force that allows us to overcome every failure, every setback, every defeat, and keep going and growing, is faith in God’s faith in us.”

When children see their parents and teachers acknowledging, embracing and dealing with disappointment head on, they too will learn that is it OK to fail – as long as it is followed by a renewed commitment to solving the problem and learning from the experience.  As we wish and hope that our children and students achieve much success in school and throughout their lives, let us also hope that they are given the strength and “grit” needed to overcome whatever setbacks come their way. May they always have faith in G-D and more importantly remember that G-D has faith in each one of us. 

1 comment:

  1. We have talked a lot about perseverance this year, from discussions about struggling and learning to facing obstacles that seem insurmountable. It's interesting to me how many of our children have adults who step in at the least sign of struggle to "save" their kids from frustration... because I know frustration can lead to determination and satisfaction in "seeing it through." We often go back to Scripture to find verses about this very issue. There are so many!

    Thanks for sharing your insights!