Persistence and grit are words that are frequently mentioned as predictors of academic success. But how do you encourage or support persistence and grit, especially with students who face multiple obstacles to learning?
Let’s take the example of military families. Tutor.com works with military families all over the world. Our military students face many of the same challenges to learning that other students face—self-confidence/self-esteem issues, challenging subjects and the lack of available academic support, or falling behind on a topic—but these families face additional unique challenges.
- The average child in an active duty military family will move six to nine times during their school years. The average 18-year-old civilian in the U.S. will have only moved twice in the same timeframe. 1 Moving to a new community is always stressful. For students, it can evoke additional concerns. They
- Worry if they will fit in socially and know they will miss their friends and support network.
- Are concerned about curricula which may differ from their previous school, falling behind in course work, perhaps not even graduating on time.
- Don’t know if they will be able to continue their participation in sports or other extra-curricular activities.
- One or both military parents may be deployed. The deployment of a parent in and of itself places stress on a family. In addition, if the deployed parent is the primary helper with schoolwork, students encounter the added anxiety of losing that academic support.
I think we would all agree that persistence and grit are pretty much built into the experiences of military families which is not to say that civilian families do not also experience multiple obstacles to learning with family, income, bullying, scholastic pressure and other issues. How might we build in support to foster persistence, grit and academic growth for all families?
Students are more likely to persist if they see themselves as capable of being successful if they are willing to fail and learn from their mistakes; if they are interested in and can relate to the material; or if they feel a sense of “social belonging.” Online, on-demand tutoring services such as Tutor.com are exceptionally well positioned to address these factors. Tutoring is a one-to-one experience with a supportive and knowledgeable adult. A student doesn’t need to fear asking “dumb” questions or giving the wrong answers.
Learning takes place within an anonymous, secure and reassuring environment. Each student has his/her own personal supporter and advocate who focuses on the particular needs of each student so the student gets the help he needs—not the help that his classmates need. If the student missed simultaneous equations in the previous school or the previous week, the student can catch up with the tutor. Students can “favorite” tutors to provide continuity and to maintain that sense of belonging. Your favorite online tutor accompanies you whether you are in Alaska or Germany, in class or sipping hot chocolate on a snow day, needing help at midnight or at 3PM in the afternoon.
Each of these elements of online tutoring combine to foster a belief that academic help is available for students which in turn can convert the perception of “grit and persistence” from sterile doggedness, to innate desire to persist because it will get our students where they want to go.
1 “All About DoDEA Educational Partnership.” Retrieved from: https://www.dodea.edu/Partnership/about.cfm.