Principal Ponderings

As I shared at the Meet the Teacher Night this past Wednesday, a poem called, “The Race” tells the heart-breaking story of a young boy in a running race who aspires to not only win the race but also make his father, who is in the stands, proud of him. During the race the boy repeatedly stumbles and falls as in his attempts to catch up he falls farther and farther behind. Each time he falls, the boy looks over at his father who remains steadfast and encourages him to get up and try again to win the race. The repeated refrain in the poem is, “Get up and win the race, you haven’t lost at all, for winning is no more than this: to rise each time you fall.” At the end the race when the boy finishes in last place he says to his father sadly, “I didn’t do so well.” His father replies, “To me, you won, because you rose each time you fell.” The poem ends with a memorable line, “For all of life is like that race, with ups and downs and all, and all you have to do to win, is rise each time you fall.”Author Paul Tough in his book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character says that what makes children succeed in school and in life is not primarily their I.Q. but rather the sheer grit to fall down often and get back up again. He identifies a child’s stick-to-it-ness, passion to do well, desire to learn and determination to finish well as vital to their success. He also says that it is the strength of character and not simply high self-esteem which will help a child to be successful. As he writes, “There is a difference between developing self-esteem and developing character and in the past few decades we’ve become confused about that. Yes, if you want to develop kids’ self-esteem, the best way to do it is to praise everything they do and make excuses for their failures. But if you want to develop their character, you do almost the opposite: you let them fail and don’t hide their failures from them or from anybody else- not to make them feel lousy about themselves, but to give them the tools to succeed next time.

I agree with Tough that we can learn from our mistakes and failures and in fact, often we look back and see those as pivotal times of learning and growth. Even serious failure does not have to be the point of no return as it is an opportunity for the love and grace of God to be magnified as beautifully described in Psalm 103:8-14.

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