So what is persistence? How does one explain that concept that students? Macmillan dictionary defines persistence as, "the attitude or behavior of someone who continues to do, or try to do, something in a determined way."
Students learn these intangible concepts best by modeling. Modeling the trait ourselves and bringing models to them through picture books and real world examples. My absolute favorite picture book for teaching "persitence" and grit for that matter, is Wilma Unlimited by Kathleen Krull.
Did that stop Wilma? No! "Finally tired of crying all the time, she decided she had to fight back - somehow." Wilma began exercising. She worked so hard the doctors were amazed. She was finally able to use a steel brace to hobble around. WIlma wasn't happy with that. "Wilma fought the sadness by doing more leg exercises." Pain. and. more. pain. But WIlma didn't give up!
One Sunday, Wilma felt really good on her way to church. WIlma felt different that day. "Standing alone, the sound of hymns coloring the air, she unbuckled her heavy brake and set it by the church's front door. Takoing a deep breath, she moved one foot in front of the other, her knees trembling violently. She took her mind off her knees by concentrating on taking another breath....and then another."
But not always are we successful, even when we persist. This is where "grit" comes into the picture. What is "grit?" Grit is the courage and resolve to keep going, no matter what. This is taking persistence to the next level - the willingness to accept defeat and let it change and shape our future for the better. Read the above book about Wilma Rudolph and then watch the following video clip from Derek Redmond's run in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and I guarantee your students will have a better understanding of persistence and grit...... way better than if we just tell our students, "You need to be more persistent in your learning." Add on the story of the "Last Runner," and you too might be profoundly impacted to persist in your life. Caution: you may shed a tear or two in the process.