How Do We Nourish the Desire for Success in Our Students?

Success is a balance between pleasure and pain.

Our students are no different than any of us in terms of wanting to be successful. Our success, or lack thereof, is largely due to our short- and long-term choices as it relates to pain and pleasure.

We often choose short-term pleasure over short-term pain—even when it is fairly certain the short-term pain leads to long-term pleasure—to avoid those very things that help to put us on the path of progress.

Procrastination is often a difficult issues for students to correct.

Mentoring for success

Adults have the benefit of experiences and life lessons that should have taught us that success and maturity does in fact begin with deferring short-term pleasure for future good.

This is a concept that needs to be at the forefront of what our students need, not only in the classroom, but as it relates to our core relationship with our children and students.


Success, like happiness, is a result of choices. Our choices. It is my experience as an educational mentor and professional, that our students are “existing,” not growing.

Progress is a process. Our students need to be taught how to choose to invest in themselves. They need to choose challenging classes instead of the easy general education classes.

Choosing challenges now instead of the easy path now can be scary for students. Our students often suffer from a lack of “earned confidence.” I have seen students beginning the path towards success when they take on challenges. They earn that confidence.

Success depends upon how we learn to learn

Perhaps the most lasting, and sometimes most difficult, change that students need to take on is learning to learn.

Learning is an active process and is one that Is not restricted to the classroom. This is the reason that it is critical that our students learn how to learn.

This applies to the classroom and in life, in general. How our students progress through life is primarily dependent on their ability to demonstrate critical learning skills.

A calculus teacher whom I hold in high regard told her class, “I am not trying to create mathematicians, but to form critical thinkers.”

This is the definition of what success needs to be. If anything, life is about our ability to perceive new situations, determine optimal courses of action and adapt to change. Unless our students learn to learn, they will never adapt to a world that is constantly evolving.

Failure is a critical experience in the path to success

The path to success rarely addresses the concept of and the need for failure.

We expect out students and children, first and foremost to win in athletic endeavors. Good sportsmanship is given varying degrees of attention.

We don’t teach our students the value and lessons to be learned in losing, or failure. There is often no room, nor tolerance for failure.

We as parents and educators are often the cause of these expectations. Before our youth can fully understand how to experience success they must learn from failure; learning to learn.

It is the endurance through failure that will test our students as to whether or not they are willing to invest in long-term success. They will have to make choices.

Educational success in not only a classroom experience. We need to actively help in our students to recognize the role of not only educational mastery, but mastery in whatever they do.

Our children and students need us to teach them how not to fear failure, even to welcome it. We need to proactively approach our students and teach life’s lessons.

About the Author:

Joe has 30+ years' experience as a developer, technical lead and manager of large scale defense, avionics and private sector programs. His work with youth includes six years as a private teacher and tutor focusing on STEM material. He is also a published technical author, conference presenter and technical team trainer.

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