Character Education Lessons: Perseverance

character education responsibility lesson

Social-Emotional Domain: Perseverance

Students demonstrate the trait of perseverance by continuing to perform their responsibilities and pursue their goals with vigor and tenacity despite frustrations, mistakes, setbacks, and other obstacles that make their task difficult or seem impossible. They resist temptations and pressures to give up or quit, choosing instead, to persist as long as they are able.

Key Beliefs:

I will be a better student if I act on the following beliefs:

  • When something doesn’t work right, try again and again.
  • I am able to resist temptations and pressures to give up or quit, choosing instead to persist as long as I can.
  • I will always finish what I start.
  • I can learn to face and accept what happens in my life.
  • I need to grow from my experiences, including the ones that hurt.

 

Application:

  • Identify moral themes and dilemmas throughout history: prejudice versus civil rights, treatment of ethnic groups, greed versus giving, attitudes toward slavery, the family, and its changing role.
  • Have students write in their journals about difficult situations, and how they handled them without giving up.
  • Discuss a poem about suffering, what can be learned from it, how to face it, how not to hurt others, and anything else about obstacles.
  • Students can learn what it means to stick to a task through the retelling of the story “The Little Engine That Could.” Personal application is made to their own experiences with the “I think I can…” statement.
  • Have students write and illustrate something they can do now that required perseverance to accomplish (e.g., riding a bike or running a mile), and make a class art wall displaying these examples.
  • Students can identify heroes in their local community, realizing that most heroes are ordinary people that just work hard and never give up.
  • Read a children’s book of heroes together and discover how the hero persevered.
  • Make it a point to notice when your students are demonstrating perseverance and say things such as, “You stuck with that problem and tried it in a couple of different ways,” or, “It can be frustrating to not get it the first time, but we stick with things and try again!”
  • Have students research individuals from a historical perspective to document examples of perseverance.
  • Have students create and illustrate the concept of perseverance through an acrostic poem.
  • Have students discuss mistakes they have made and how they could have turned them into learning opportunities.
  • Have students select a character from a favorite book or story. Tell them to list that character’s traits and explain how these traits helped the character to overcome adversity. Then have them compare their own traits to those of their chosen character.
  • Help your students think of a fun goal they can achieve within a short time, like finishing a book or completing a project. Completing a small goal will help give students an idea of the positive feelings they will have when they accomplish their long–term goals.
  • Ask the students to make two lists: one list of things that are difficult for them, and another of things that are easy for them. Categorize these items under headings such as sports, school, home, friends, etc. Study how many are in each category and check if the students have listed more difficult things or easier things. Remind the students that if they keep persevering, the difficult items can be moved to the ‘easy’ list. You can also use this activity to teach about categorizing and percentages.
  • Students could take part in a variety of writing exercises about the most important pastime or activity in which they participate, and the perseverance it takes to improve.

Quotation Posters:

Quotations:

  • “Great works are performed, not by strength, but by perseverance.” – Samuel Johnson
  • “When the world says, ‘Give up,’ Hope whispers, ‘Try one more time.’” – Unknown
  • “Patience, persistence, and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.” – Napoleon Hill
  • “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” – Albert Einstein
  • “Failure is success if we learn from it.” – Malcolm Forbes
  • “When a door closes, try to re–open it. If it does not yield, look for another door. If you can’t find one, look for a window. If there is no window, poke a hole in the wall and make one. There is always a way out. Nothing that confines you is stronger than your will to be free.” – Michael Josephson
  • “It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.” – Vince Lombardi
  • “The difference between a try and a triumph is a little umph.” – Unknown
  • “When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • “The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one comes from a strong will, and the other from a strong won’t.” – Henry Ward Beecher
  • “Nobody trips over mountains. It is the small pebble that causes you to stumble. Pass all the pebbles in your path and you will find you have crossed the mountain.”  – Unknown
  • “Consider the postage stamp: its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing till it gets there.” – Josh Billings
  • “If one dream should fall and break into a thousand pieces, never be afraid to pick one of those pieces up and begin again.” – Flavia Weedn
  • “Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.” – Walter Elliott
  • “People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.” – G.B. Shaw

Lessons:

Gone Fishing

Learning Objective: To help students realize that we all face challenges and fears but that we can possess the courage to overcome and persevere

Materials: A sheet of paper cut into fourths; two or three cans/pails; four dowel rods cut into two-foot lengths; string; four small magnets; paper clips

Instructions:

  • Provide each student with a ¼ size sheet of paper. Have the students fold the paper in half. On the upper half, they can write down something they are or were afraid of. On the bottom half, have them write what they did or could do to help get over this fear.
  • Punch a hole through the top of both pieces of paper near the fold and attach a paper clip. Each student can then place the pieces of paper in a couple of pails or cans. Depending on the size of the class, figure on no more than eight students per can.
  • Provide a couple of ‘fishing poles’ that have been created out of a two–foot piece of dowel rod that has a string and magnet attached to the end. Have the student take the pole and drop it into the can. The magnet will attach itself to a paper clip. The students can reel in the slip of paper and read whatever was written.

Process and Reflection:

So What?

  • How hard was it to come up with a fear or challenge you have?
  • Have you been successful in having the courage to overcome and persevere? If so, what strategy has worked for you?

Now What?

  • Why is it hard for a student to face a fear or challenge?
  • Failure is not an option. Do you agree or disagree? How does your response reflect what you would do to demonstrate perseverance?
  • As you get older, what are other challenges you will most likely have to face?
  • What are strategies you can use to overcome a specific situation you face?
  • Why do you think some students lack the courage to overcome the fear they have?

 

Stepping Up

Learning Objective: To help students realize that if they face their problems by shaking off fear and stepping up, they will most likely have a better chance of being successful

Materials: The Parable of the Wise Old Mule

Instructions:

  • Read The Parable of the Wise Old Mule
  • Give students a copy of the worksheet or display the questions as part of a media presentation.
  • Group students to discuss responses to the questions.

The Parable of the Wise Old Mule – Author unknown

A parable is told of a farmer who owned an old mule. The mule fell into the farmer’s well. The farmer heard the mule ‘braying’ – or whatever mules do when they fall into wells. After carefully assessing the situation, the farmer sympathized with the mule but decided that neither the mule nor the well was worth the trouble of saving.

Instead, he called his neighbors together and told them what had happened and enlisted them to help haul dirt to bury the old mule in the well and put him out of his misery. Initially, the old mule was hysterical! But as the farmer and his neighbors continued shoveling and the dirt hit his back…a thought struck him. It suddenly dawned on him that every time a shovel load of dirt landed on his back…HE SHOULD SHAKE IT OFF AND STEP UP! This he did, blow after blow.

“Shake it off and step up…shake it off and step up…shake it off and step up!” he repeated to encourage himself.

No matter how painful the blows, or distressing the situation seemed the old mule fought panic and just kept right on SHAKING IT OFF AND STEPPING UP! You’re right! It wasn’t long before the old mule, battered and exhausted, STEPPED TRIUMPHANTLY OVER THE WALL OF THAT WELL! What seemed like would bury him, actually blessed him – all because of the manner in which he handled his adversity.

Process and Reflection

So What?

  • What problem did the mule have to overcome?
  • How did the mule handle the problem?
  • Why is shaking it off and stepping up an admirable way to face adversity?

Now What?

  • How does The Parable of the Mule relate to you as a student?
  • What are examples you can share of people you know personally or people you have read or heard about who have shaken off adversity and stepped up?
  • What happened to the people you cited as examples who shook off adversity and stepped up?
  • Make a list of five ways that you can make shaking it off and stepping up to adversity a habit.

 

Marshmallow Activity

Partner students in your preferred way. Have 2-piece picture puzzles and give each student one piece and let them find their partner to mix things up. Give each partner group a plastic cup and 10 of some small items (e.g. mini marshmallows, mini erasers). Have students stand across from one another. One student will hold the plastic cup and one student will hold the 10 mini items. The student with the mini item will underhand toss the items one at a time to the partner with the cup. The goal is for students to catch all 10 of the items in the cup without dropping any. If you have a larger space and want more of a challenge, have students take one step backward after catching a marshmallow/eraser.

 

Life Lesson – The Farmer and His Son – Aesop

http://greatexpectations.org/wp-content/uploads/pdf/lp/perserverance/perserverance_literature_MSHS.pdf

Articles:

Moral Courage: The Engine of Integrity by Michael Josephson

Mignon McLaughlin tells us, “People are made of flesh and blood and a miracle fiber called courage.” Courage comes in two forms: physical courage and moral courage. Physical courage is demonstrated by acts of bravery where personal harm is risked to protect others or preserve cherished principles. It’s the kind of courage that wins medals and monuments. Moral courage may seem less grand but it is more important because it’s needed more often.

Moral courage is the engine of integrity. It is our inner voice that coaxes, prods, and inspires us to meet our responsibilities and live up to our principles when doing so may cost us dearly.

It takes moral courage to be honest at the risk of ridicule, rejection, or retaliation, or when doing so may jeopardize our income or career. It takes courage to own up to our mistakes when doing so may get us in trouble or thwart our ambitions. It even takes courage to stand tough with our kids when doing so may cost us their affection.

Like a personal coach, moral courage pushes and prods us to be our best selves. It urges us to get up when we’d rather stay in bed, go to work when we’d rather go fishing, tell the truth when a lie would make our life so much easier, keep a costly promise, and put the interest of others above our own.

The voice of moral courage is also our critical companion during troubling times; it provides us with the strength to cope with and overcome adversity and persevere when we want to quit or just rest.

At unexpected and unwelcome times, we all will be forced to deal with the loss of loved ones, personal illnesses and injuries, betrayed friendships, and personal failures. These are the trials and tribulations of a normal life, but, without moral courage, they can rob us of the will and confidence to find new roads to happiness and fulfillment=. Moral courage is essential not only for a virtuous life but a happy one. Without courage, our fears and failures confine us like a barbed-wire fence.

The voice of moral courage is always there, but sometimes it is drowned out by the drumbeat of our fears and doubts. We need to learn to listen for the voice. The more we call on it and listen to it and trust it, the stronger it becomes.

 

The Amazing 8–Watts

In 1972, NASA launched the exploratory space probe Pioneer 10. The satellite’s primary mission was to reach Jupiter, photograph the planet and its moons, and beam data to earth about Jupiter’s magnetic field, radiation belts, and atmosphere. Scientists regarded this as a bold plan, for at that time no earth satellite had ever gone beyond Mars, and they feared the asteroid belt would destroy the satellite before it could reach its target.

But Pioneer 10 accomplished its mission and much, much more. Swinging past the giant planet, Jupiter’s gravity hurled Pioneer 10 at a higher rate of speed toward the edge of the solar system. At one billion miles from the sun, Pioneer 10 passed Saturn. At some two billion miles, it hurtled past Uranus; Neptune at nearly three billion miles; Pluto at almost four billion miles. By 1997, twenty–five years after its launch, Pioneer 10 was more than six billion miles from the sun.

And despite that immense distance, Pioneer 10 continued to beam back radio signals to scientists on Earth. Perhaps most remarkable, those signals emanate from an 8–watt transmitter, which radiates about as much power as a bedroom night light, and takes more than nine hours to reach Earth.

“The Little Satellite That Could” was not qualified to do what it did. Engineers designed Pioneer 10 with a useful life of just three years. But it kept going and going. By simple longevity, its tiny 8–watt transmitter radio accomplished more than anyone thought possible.

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