Today, Carole speaks with Tom Burton about nurturing perseverance, grit, and commitment in today’s K­-12 students. The role educators and parents play is key and not necessarily always easy (loving in the unlovable moments). Our guest is Tom Burton, the associate superintendent of Princeton City Schools.

Perseverance and Grit: Character for Life

Perseverance. Life is a series of ups and downs. It’s not climbing up the hill, or running up the hill, it is what you do once you get to the top of the hill, how you push off the hill. Additionally, we hear a lot about grit, and teaching it to our students in schooling today. Students cannot be afraid to fail. To fail (first attempt in learning) is just an opportunity to improve, and persevere. Grit is also the consciousness of being achievement oriented, and committed, beyond just completing the task at hand.

Intrinsic Motivation

We want students to want to learn, to initiate their own learning. Our job as educators and parents is not to give students the answers, but to make students thirsty for the answers and learning. Great teachers will inspire students to answer questions themselves, to collaborate, to innovate, and to search. Through questioning and not spoon feeding learning students will resolve their own internal and external questions, without being provided with all the answers.

Compliance versus Commitment

There’s a difference between interest/compliance and commitment. When you are committed there is no excuse, and only results. Compliance only goes so far. In education, students who are compliant will abandon the task at hand when there isn’t ample extrinsic motivation. Commitment is intrinsic, motivated by the student, their goals and their will.

Loving the Unlovable Moments

Loving our children when they are most unloveable is necessary. When you child isn’t cleaning their room, or performing at their best, academically, athletically, musically­­ these are the moments that students are most lost and need our help. Be strong enough to be the rational one.

Tom’s Advice to his 20 year old Self

Listen more. Love more. Invest in a core group of friends who will fulfill and support your growth.

Book Recommendation

Malcolm Gladwell­: everything he’s written!

And an extra book recommendation from We Love Schools:
The Mark of Leadership by Tom Burton

Follow Tom on Twitter @tomtalksmiddle