The Wawascene was created by Dr. Mark Stock, former Superintendent of the Wawasee Community School Corporation. Due to its local popularity, Dr. Stock has left the blog site to future Wawasee administrators.

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Self control - secret to success?

Somehow we've entered a world in which we obsess over structural reforms and
standardized tests, but skirt around the moral and psychological traits that are
at the heart of actual success

This quote comes from an online news article that is worth a read.

The premise being that the ability to exercise self-control and delay of gratification might be the secret to success.

However, doesn't it still come down to where you stand on the "nurture or nature" debate? Are children born with these tendencies or do they acquire them through their environment?

Article here.


Anonymous said...

I think that part of it is 'person in environment'. If everything you have known (family life) is impulsive and self serving, then it is difficult to break out of this cycle. There are those who do and it changes the future of their offspring, thereby breaking the cycle. But, I am constantly amazed at the selfishness of impulsive decisions that forever affects lives. I am curious, how do educators see their role in changing the cycle of impulsive behavior?

Cherie Martin said...

Thanks for posting this article, Mark. I remember having read about the marshmallow experiment some years ago, but it was good to review it while I am working on adjusting plans for the new school year. At the high school level, we struggle so much with this concept. So many students would rather spend their evenings doing part-time jobs so that they can receive the immediate reward of a paycheck, instead of spending their evenings doing homework in anticipation of the later reward of being better prepared for their adult roles. As to your question about nature versus nurture, it seems here to be the same as in other cases, that all start with what they are given by nature, then make or don't make the most of it through nurture. Some students accomplish far more than might otherwise be expected when parental expectations require that the student be diligent and work to accomplish all that is naturally possible for him or her.

As educatiors at the high school level, we have not done a terrific job of keeping parents keyed into what we expect so that those parents might support those expectations at home. There are many reasons for that, and all the responsibility does not fall onto the shoulders of the educators. Parents have already busy lives, and we don't currently have a culture of parents coming in and working in the schools, except perhaps to attend ballgames.

We have heard time and again that all students can learn, if given proper instruction and enough time. I believer that to be partially true. I see many Skills, Algebra and Geometry students who probably never will be able to master the curriculum of my calculus class. Nature does set boundaries. We work to find the best practice methods for reaching more and more students during the time we do have with them. That is a part of the nurture that needs to occur. Perhaps we need to add to that some better way of keeping parents and teachers working together as an additional nurture component.

In any case, thanks for provoking thought.

Dr. Mark J. Stock said...


Thank you for your thoughtful and reasoned response.

It seems to me that almost all school reform elements are based on the SCIENCE of teaching and learning. We focus on better instructional techniques, more diverse teaching styles, technology, curriculum aligned with standards, knowing what students are tested on etc, etc.

Yet, it seems like the profession and the policy makers have barely recognized what teacher's intuitively know - that is - one of the largest determining factors of student sucess is more often the student's willingess and/or motivation to tackle the tasks. While there is certainly room to debate what the "appropriate tasks" are for each subject and grade - it still won't help us if we create the perfect curriculum and the perfect teaching lessons that students choose not to engage in.

SO, as schools focus on the science of teaching, it appears the psychological and emotional aspects of how to engage students becomes a prerequisite to instruction. It's this murky world of "motivation and psychology" that no one wants to address.

Jim Evans sent me this article to read and I thought it was worth reviewing again. Everyone wants to bash the schools but the same school that produced the MIT grad produced the dropout too. Could it be that the major difference between the two is the individual student's willingness to excercise self-control and discipline?

A parent stopped me last week to brag about his son who was a long time ago Wawasee High School grad. He wanted me to know that the school had prepared him well. He went on to West Point and recently was named a Lieutenant Colonel in the military. I'll bet there were students in the same graduation class that chose not to delay gratification and will not have the same life-time earnings and retirement opportunities.