A few years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Dr Grace Warren who spent many years as a Christian missionary, doctor and surgeon. In learning about Dr Warren’s life, I was struck by the perseverance she had displayed to use her gifts to serve others. By her own admission, Dr Warren was not the most successful student at high school, however, she scraped through the leaving certificate on her second attempt and eventually gained entry to university to study medicine. Even though she was drawn to surgery as a student, women were unable to study surgery formally at the time of her medical education in the 1950s. During working assignments in Korea and Hong Kong she developed a passionate interest in the treatment of suffers of leprosy. Through her own research she developed new surgical techniques to heal conditions previously considered only treatable through amputation. Her skills in surgery were soon obvious and she rapidly became sought out to instruct doctors and surgeons around the world. Despite facing numerous challenges and setbacks, she persevered in her work, ultimately making a significant impact on the lives of the people she served. She faced numerous challenges in her work as a doctor and missionary, including language barriers, cultural differences, and difficult living conditions. One of the keys to Dr Warren's perseverance was her faith. Dr Warren's example is a testament to the importance of perseverance, sometimes referred to as grit, in fulfilling our God given purpose.
In the Bible we are provided with many examples of perseverance and encouragement to develop this trait. In Romans 5:3-4, the apostle Paul writes, "Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." In James 1:2-4, we read, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." Similarly, Hebrews 12:1-3 encourages us to "run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith." These verses remind us that perseverance is not only important for this life, but also for God’s eternal purpose. Perseverance is one of sixteen learning dispositions in the College’s Building Purposeful Lives (BPL) learning framework. It is a vital trait when it comes to achieving success in any endeavour and especially when it comes to learning. The BPL definition of perseverance that we share with students is “We maintain effort despite challenges and setbacks”. Perseverance is crucial for developing resilience, which is the ability to bounce back from failures and setbacks. Resilience allows us to learn from our mistakes, adapt to new challenges, and continue to grow and develop. John Hattie, a prominent educational researcher, has highlighted the importance of perseverance in his work, "Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement." In this book, Hattie argues that students who have a growth mindset and are willing to persist in the face of difficulty are more likely to achieve academic success. Hattie also notes that perseverance is closely linked to self-regulation, which is the ability to monitor and control one's thoughts, feelings, and behaviours to achieve a goal. Guy Claxton, another prominent educational researcher, has also emphasised the importance of perseverance in learning. In his book "What's the Point of School?: Rediscovering the Heart of Education," Claxton argues that resilience, is a key component of effective learning. Claxton also notes that perseverance is closely linked to the development of a growth mindset, which is the belief that intelligence and abilities can be developed through hard work and effort.
Learning is not always easy, and there will be times when students face difficulties. Students who persevere through these challenges are more likely to succeed in the long run, as they develop resilience and the ability to bounce back from setbacks. Learning is a process of continual improvement, and students who persevere through challenges are more likely to develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed. By persisting through setbacks and difficulties rather than trying to remove them, students can build their self-confidence, which will further develop their capacity. As educators and parents it is important to resist the urge to step in and ‘rescue’ students before they have had a chance to persist. As a community we are blessed to be in a position where we can assist young people to develop perseverance so they can be inspired and equipped to build purposeful lives.
Head of Secondary Years