In this post I describe the second of what I consider to be the five most important traits needed for success in school. By giving attention to these high-leverage behaviors and nurturing their development over time, teachers and parents can empower children to maximize their amazing potential.
Of course, no two children are alike, and not all high-achieving students will display the traits I am about to describe in the same way. Some of the following details may not be true of every successful student. My goal, then, is not to paint a picture of a single, rigid "type" that all children must emulate. Rather, it's to share the specific behaviors that, in my experience, have the greatest impact on a child's success. Focusing on these behaviors gives teachers and parents the greatest bang for our buck in our efforts to help children become better students.
R- Reach for the Stars
One morning last year, my students were creating bar graphs and other types of charts and tables to display the results of our Winter Enthusiasm Survey. After working for a very short time, one child raised her hand, and I was worried that she had rushed through the activity just to get done. Instead, she told me that she wasn't happy with how the paper looked and asked if she could start over. That action exemplifies the trait featured in this post.
Successful students hold themselves to impressively high personal standards with regard to their work, effort, and behavior. They care deeply about their schoolwork and don’t rush through it. Their goal isn't simply to finish. They take uncommon pride in what they do and only want to turn in work that represents their very best effort, even if it means putting in extra time. These kids believe that this extra time and effort are worth it. It's wonderful when parents and teachers hold high expectations for children, but the breakthrough moment occurs when these expectations are no longer adult expectations; they become a child's own personal standards. There is a well-known quote that says: "Every piece of work is a self-portrait of the person who did it." Highly successful students live this quote, and their daily actions show that they are committed to doing their very best each day and won't settle for anything less.
One critical area where a child's commitment to maintaining high personal standards can be clearly seen involves how well they pay attention to detail. Reading directions carefully, answering every part of multi-step math questions, and proofreading written work aren't typically the most interesting tasks students encounter, but how well they are done often determines the difference between quality work and work that cannot yet be considered quality work. Highly successful students understand the importance of paying attention to detail and do so consistently and independently, without needing adult reminders.