David Shenk entitled Chapter 8 of his best-selling book, The Genius in All of Us, "How to Ruin (Or Inspire) a Kid." In that chapter, Shenk offers advice to parents for fostering and guiding excellence in their children. He argues that the potential for creativity is "built into our brains" and that excellence is not something you either have or don't have. It is rather something within that awaits development.
In his book, Shenk offers parents a concise list things to do to foster and guide excellence in their children. While this list is addressed to parents, I can't help but believe teachers would find it useful too.
- Believe: We have to have faith in what Shenk calls "the enormous potential of a child." It is up to us to marshal the resources necessary to bring them to excellence. We have to believe in the extraordinary potential of every child.
- Support, don't smother: Setting high expectations and allowing students to demonstrate resilience in the face of challenges is important. Trying to protect them to the point of "smothering them" does not allow a student to grow in excellence. Give them support as they strive to achieve.
- Pace and Persist: As Shenk points out, "In the end, persistence is the difference between mediocrity and enormous success." Teaching students the ability to delay gratification is key. Demonstrate and be a model of self-control for students at all times. Allow students opportunities to demonstrate self-control.
- Embrace Failure: Weaknesses are opportunities. Failures open doors wide. Be careful to not give up on students who have failed. With them, turn failure into an opportunity.
If we want to foster a culture where excellence is the norm, we need to strive to foster values that bring out the best in our students and ourselves.