Highlands Blog

Teaching Perseverance and Resilience in Primary Grades

Treasure Horton
At the beginning of each school year, I ask parents to complete the "getting to know your child" questionnaire as a first glance about incoming students and families. There have always been themes that arise from the questions about goals for their children. Answers consist of things like making friends, loving to read and strengthening math skills. While all of these responses are wonderful, more and more, I am seeing the need to teach the idea of resilience and perseverance as well. Resilience in learning is about being able to persevere through setbacks. 
As both a parent and a teacher, finding the balance between challenging students, while not overwhelming them, can be an intricate dance. Our natural instinct as teachers and parents is to protect children from hardship, though we do them a disservice when we step in too soon. Teaching resilience and perseverance allows children to learn and grow from adversity. 
Research shows that correcting an error allows the brain to make new connections and guide further decision making. Our strongest understandings do not come from memorization, but from what we have learned through experience. 
First graders recently engaged in a STEM challenge to create the longest chain possible with only two sheets of paper, 12 inches of tape, and a pair of scissors in only 10 minutes. In STEM, there are plenty of places to learn persistence and resilience. During the challenge, I saw students run out of tape and chains that came apart. While reflecting afterwards, I heard comments like, "next time let's try skinnier loops" and "I'll cut while you make loops". In the pursuit of learning, failure becomes "data" and drives the design and innovation process. 
Teaching perseverance and resilience at a young age has significant benefits to children's academic, emotional and social development. By teaching that failure is not final, we make an impact on them with lifelong benefits.  
Highlands School, 4901 Old Leeds Road, Birmingham, AL 35213, (205) 956-9731
Highlands School's 'whole child' approach to education and commitment to academic excellence, creative expression, and leadership development prepare and motivate students in grades 4k through 8 to make a positive difference in an ever-changing world. Located in Birmingham, Alabama, Highlands School holds dual accrediation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and the Southern Associations of Independent Schools (SAIS).

For more information, visit www.highlandsschool.org.