In order to convince students that they can accomplish anything, don’t we first have to believe it about ourselves?

I had a great day. The best day. I got to read my picture book, The Princes of Serendip, to the students of Quincy Elementary. Of course, we didn’t just read the book, we learned the meaning of new words and we discussed character lessons that are embedded throughout the book. I shared the publishing process with them. I shared why I wrote the book. It was way more fun than I even thought it would be.

Our students were wonderful and curious listeners. They were especially curious about the pictures and they wondered if I created the illustrations. I did not, the amazing Molly Blaisdell illustrated The Princes of Serendip.

I almost told them that I didn’t illustrate the book myself because I can’t draw.

Then I stopped myself mid-sentence.

One of the major themes of The Princes of Serendip is the value of hard work–how we don’t experience big feelings and learn important lessons when we are being lazy and gluttonous. We stumble upon the fortunes of life when we are working hard, being kind, and feeling grateful.

So, I didn’t tell our students that I can’t draw.

I told them that in order to learn how to illustrate a book, I would have to work very hard. I would need to practice and to learn from experts. And because I am a principal, a mom, a wife, and a writer, ain’t nobody got time to learn another skill right now. So, instead of working very hard to learn how to illustrate my own book, I asked someone who has already done that hard work to illustrate it.

How many times have we modeled an, “I can’t” mentality for our students? How many times have we told them, “I can’t draw…” or, “I can’t dance…” or, “I can’t sing…”. I am not saying that I could be another Molly Blaisdell just by working hard. I certainly don’t have the natural talent that she does. But, I wonder if it is unfair to tell our students that we cannot do something if we haven’t even tried to do it. I mean, really tried. The kind of trying that champions do, the hours of daily hard work they put in. If I worked as hard on drawing as I do on being a principal or being a writer and I still couldn’t even draw a stick figure, then I might be qualified to say I can’t draw. Until then, students deserve me to tell them the truth. And the truth is that I am not willing to put in the hard work to see if I could be good at drawing because I put my effort in other places.

If we really want students to believe that they can do anything…that the world is their oyster…that they should shoot for the moon because even if they miss they will land among the stars, don’t we need to believe that about ourselves too?

I love this post by George Couros. In it, George talks about the difference between compliance and discipline. Compliance is doing what you are told and discipline is doing something for yourself. He uses a sports analogy–if you work hard in practice doing what your coach tells you to do, you are compliant. If you go home at night and continuing to practice for hours, even though your coach and teammates aren’t watching you, you are disciplined. His post ties in perfectly with the important lesson I learned, that we must not only teach our students the value of discipline over compliance, we need to believe it ourselves. And then we need to model it for them.

Because if we don’t model that through hard work we can accomplish just about anything, aren’t we just full of hot air?

So, what are you going to tell students about your drawing skills tomorrow?

reading to students

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