It’s All in the Effort

Woody Allen was almost right in his famous declaration, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” While we certainly have to arrive to be successful, it turns out effort and experimentation are the keys to success once we’ve made it into the room or on to the stage.

A recent post  (How we learn) by Chuck Will, the voice of Proctor Academy‘s Chuck’s Corner, acknowledges a broad swath of academic work from multiple intelligences, to neurosciences, to behavioral economics, to Jonah Leher’s How We Decide.

Chuck makes the quick case for the ways that the research in these fields forces us to re-think how we motivate students, how we reward achievement, and how we reinforce experimentation and risk. The crux being, effort is more valuable than achievement. Chuck quotes Leher as his conclusion:

“Instead of praising kids for trying hard, teachers typically praise them for their innate intelligence (being smart). This type of encouragement actually backfires, since it leads students to see mistakes as signs of stupidity and not as the building blocks of knowledge. The regrettable outcome is that kids never learn how to learn.”

Interestingly and from a personal perspective (I’m a T-P alumnus), Trinity-Pawling School has been practicing and preaching the value of effort over all else for at least 30 years.

T-P students must earn their individual standing and privileges through the school’s effort system. The system is amazingly egalitarian in that, no matter a boy’s age or class, if he is responsible, achieves, and earns the respect of faculty and students, he will enjoy greater freedom and personal responsibility.

T-P’s introduction and formula:

Effort and Academics
Students fail at Trinity-Pawling only when they fail to try. To support this philosophy, the School has developed a unique system – unlike that at any school – with reward based upon effort in various aspects of life here: academic, attendance, athletic, extracurricular, work program and dormitory.

Notice that the reward is not based upon achievement, as with a traditional academic honor roll, but upon effort. The greater the overall effort, the greater the privileges and independence; the less one tries, the more restrictions are placed on one’s lifestyle.

At the middle and at the end of each term, effort is evaluated by each faculty member with whom there is a direct relationship: classroom teachers, dormitory masters, coaches and extracurricular advisors. Attendance and discipline records are also evaluated. Students are then placed in one of the five Effort Groups and enjoy the freedoms and are subject to the restrictions that are delineated for that group. These figures are then totaled to determine the effort group. Returning students will begin the Fall Term rated on the basis of their performance when they completed the previous school year.

See and read T-P’s program by downloading their Effort and Achievement description.

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