Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Secret to Success: Talent or Work Ethics?

I complimented a gifted young 7th grader the other day on his work ethics forgetting that he was only 12 and may not know what the term “work ethics” really mean.
I asked him if he did, and his response was, “Yeah, it means not playing around in the computer and actually getting stuff done.”
Yup. That pretty much sums it up for 7th graders and the working class citizens. In a room full of gifted learners, though, “getting stuff done” may not quite be that simple. I’ve encountered enough learners in my teaching experience to make an observation that many gifted learners already know they’re gifted, but they don’t quite know what to do with their “giftedness.” Then there are others who think that the label itself will give them a free pass to a successful future because they surpassed benchmark goals, they have been praised for exceeding expectations, and they often do get stuff done quickly and accurately.
This is where the behavior issues arise. In order to instill work ethics in these young adults, they must first need to be aware that these are tangible values that actually matter even if “it’s not for a grade.”
The message is not so much to have students “work hard to be successful,” but instead instill a set of values in them that is crucial in the development of self-sustaining communities.
In guiding learners through their independent research projects, reminding them to keep reading, writing, and taking notes is not enough. Everyday, I hold small group conferences with them to answer essential questions to make their learning more useful and progressive. Real-time learning is in the academic conversations they have among each other, and in the questions they pose to challenge each other. These conversations show them that no, they don’t know everything yet because they couldn’t possibly anticipate all kinds of questions that may be brought up, but yes, be prepared to live in a world where problem-solving must be done in real time.
Today we explored this question:

Which characteristic leads to more success: talent (giftedness) or work ethics? Explain.
·         “Definitely work ethics because you could have a lot of talent but be so lazy that people don’t even realize you’re talented.”
·         “I think work ethics leads to more success because singers can have talent, but they wouldn’t be successful if they didn’t work hard.”
·         “Talent is a more important characteristic because you can learn work ethics, but if you don’t have the talent, you can’t learn it.”
·         “Work ethics are more important because without it, talent won’t make much of a difference.”
·         “You’ll do better than people who rely on talent alone if you have work ethics.”
·         “Talent is a better characteristic that will most likely lead to success because even if you don’t have good work ethics, you can still do the same project at the very last minute and make it look good.”
·         “Both are equally important because without talent what’s the point? You won’t be good at it. If you don’t have work ethics, then you don’t give proper image as a worker.”
·         “Talent and work ethics combined both add to the level of success a person has. The more work ethics and the more talent a person has, the more successful he can be. If you don’t have talent in a chosen field, and you’re not inspired to work hard to learn, then it’s not for you. You won’t get there.”

Surprisingly, the majority of my gifted learners agree that “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard,” but they still have so much to learn about work. It’s not just about the outcome nor the reward, but the process and the collaboration. How can we improve our learning communities within the young adult population?

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