I like to blog about aspects of my personal life that connect to my professional interests, specifically, Education and Leadership.  In thinking through some recent personal experiences I realized that this past weekend provided me with two clear examples of what my Dad used to call stick-to-it-iveness, nowadays we call it perseverance.

Friday night my family and I watched a movie in the park – Monsters University (MU).  As a brief synopsis, Mike Wazowski knew from an early age that he wanted to be a professional Scarer working for Monsters Inc.  He prepared his whole life to attend MU.  Throughout the movie his pursuit is met with obstacles to be overcome and challenges to tackle.  The movie ends with a short montage about how Mike and Sulley work their way up from the Monster’s Inc mailroom to become record-breaking scarers.

On Saturday my middle daughter decided it was time to learn how to ride a bicycle.  Following a few attempts, some improvised fatherly advice, and my daughter’s persistence to seeing her goal met – we had success.  Consequently as a reward we went on a family bike ride to a local eatery of her choice in celebration.

Both of these stories, one fiction and one not, are great examples of personal perseverance.

In education we strive to instill this important quality in our students.  In fact the first Common Core Math Practice Standard is titled “Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.”  We want our students to have both the desire to see a problem or project through to the end AND the perseverance to actually make their desire for successful completion a reality.

Have we considered teacher perseverance?

How do we as educational leaders instill a sense of perseverance in our teachers?

Best practices and research on instructional coaching, mentoring, and evaluation all speak to helping our teachers become risk takers, trailblazers, and innovators – essentially, we strive to encourage educators to try something new, to continually look for best strategies meet the needs of our students.  Many of these attempts are unsuccessful…the first time.

We oftentimes allow this “failed attempt” at something new to result in one of two responses: “I knew this wouldn’t work” or “I knew I couldn’t do it.”  Both of these reactions typically lead to the same result – “I’ll just go back to the way I’ve always done it.”  This is where we often fail our colleagues and our kids.

I’m certain that’s not how Mike Wazowski or my Sadie would respond – they would persevere!

As we think about starting off the new school year next month, let’s commit to improving one or two aspects of the service we provide our students and our teachers – and stick to it!  We know that it may not go well the first time; we know that perseverance is only born out of difficulties. That reality should be comforting and may even calm our fears of failure.  (As an added benefit – our perseverance can serve as a model for our kids!)

On a final note…


In thinking about this blog post, it struck me that Monster’s University was created by Pixar Animation Studios.  I had recently read a brief story of the creation of Pixar.  Turns out it was started in part by Steve Jobs who, in 1986, had been recently fired from Apple…a company that he created.

Now that’s sticktoitiveness.

We could really make a difference for our kids if exhibited that level of perseverance in our schools.

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