A friend shared this story about a pottery teacher.
The teacher came up with an idea to help his pottery students achieve the best artwork. First he divided his class into two groups. For one group, he asked them to spend the whole week focusing on the quality of their work by making one pot. For the other group, he asked them to spend the week focusing on the quantity of their work by making as many pots as possible.
At the end of the week, which group do you think made the best work? You might think it was the group that focused on the quality of their work like I did but it was actually the group that focused on quantity. So why was that? Well, I speculate it’s because “practice makes perfect”.
Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, puts forth the idea that it takes roughly 10,000 hours to achieve mastery in a skill. He cites the cases of Bill Gates, the Beatles and other successful people in their respective fields and how it took them around 10,000 hours to hone their skills.
So what does this tell us? And how does this apply to us when we teach our children?
Mastery takes time
Learning anything takes time and everyone also learns at different paces. We may get frustrated when our child doesn’t learn or master something at the pace we think they should but everyone learns differently. And even if they pick up something quickly, it will take time for them to develop the skill to do something well.
Mistakes aren’t bad
In my experience as a teacher, I have had students who ask for an entire new sheet of paper every time they make a single mistake on a piece of paper. Or students who use correction tape more than they their pens!
We have somehow come to the conclusion that mistakes are bad, that failing means the end of the world and that it’s better to aim for perfection than to just try our best. The problem with this is that when children don’t feel they can succeed, they give up altogether.
In the case of the pottery students, they had to make lots of pots, and learn along the way. If they were too scared to try, they wouldn’t have had the chance to learn from their mistakes.
So mistakes aren’t bad – they’re a way to learn. Instead of getting a child to be scared of making mistakes, teach them to learn from their mistakes.
Perseverance is key
Above all, perseverance is key. Prof. Angela Duckworth from the University of Pennsylvania has found that the single largest determinant of success is not IQ, not family background, not socio-economic status, but grit.
Grit is defined as the passion and perseverance to pursue a long-term goal. So in the journey of the 10,000 hours of mistakes, of disappointments, of improvements, the most important thing is to have perseverance in pursuing the goal.
And when grit is developed in one area of life, it’s something that is transferable to other areas as well.
So as we take on new tasks and help our children as they learn new skills, remember that practice makes perfect and goals must be pursued with perseverance.
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