Every time that our school community goes to Mass at the Church building that shares our property, we pass a little flower garden. It kind of juts out into the path that people take as they walk back into our school building. In the corner of this garden is a sad little plant, stepped on and trampled by many as they try to save one step on their way back to the business of their day. I would have expected this little plant to have died by now, faced with constant trampling by the feet of countless students over the years. Instead, this plant constantly battles back from every trampling that it takes, trying over and over again to reach its potential as a beautiful flowering plant.
To me, this sad little plant is a symbol of perseverance. It is a symbol that can show us how, when things are difficult, to keep trying, even when we know that things may well get hard again.
I think perseverance is one of the most important qualities that we, as teachers can attempt to foster in our students. One of the ways that we can do this is to be careful in the ways that we provide feedback to students. In Carol Dweck’s book Mindset (which, as I said, I will comment on more at another time), she states that praising effort over ability can help students to achieve a growth mindset that allows them to grow as a learner. While I have not taken the time to do any deep research in the matter, the concept rings true to my lived classroom experience.
Perhaps it sounds funny that a half dead, trampled plant can be a strong symbol of perseverance to me, but it is definitely one whose attributes I hope that I can emulate personally and encourage in the students I teach.