In academia or in future careers, work ethic plays a large role in levels of success. It has been debated whether or not work ethic is something that can be taught, and while there may not yet be a solidified answer to this, it should be recognized that it is a skill-- and skills can be developed through practice. Like something such as art, work ethic is something all students have varying natural abilities for, however it is important to work on these abilities-- just as students do with art classes.
So how can we go about teaching work ethic? Here are seven tips to keep in mind in [and out] of your classroom to help get you going:
- Talk about the “why” of work
Let’s face it: work isn’t something we naturally look forward to- that is why its work (and by work it might be schoolwork, housework, etc…). If it was fun it wouldn’t be considered work afterall. With that, it is easy to forget the why behind the purpose of doing the job. Bringing the “why” to the forefront helps bring more purpose to the job and with a more evidence purpose the work becomes seemingly more important and, in ways, less like a job.
Tip: Integrated the reasoning behind work in the classroom more often. You may be surprised to find that students do really want to know the purpose for doing thing, after all think about how young children are often asking “why?”. As children grow older they stop asking, but this doesn’t mean they stop wondering.
- Teach patience and accountability through long-term projects
Like anything, practice is required to get better at something. Think of how anything from sports teams to chess clubs have their versions of finals and tournaments. These grand finale sort of events create a long-term mindset in students, which helps keep them focused and on track.
Tip: Enterprise City is a good program that is setup exactly this way through an online curriculum that is completed with a trip to The City where students simulate the running of own city created by them. It also teaches work ethic in general as every student has a job to do, which helps ensure the city runs smoothly as all positions depend upon one another. Learn more about Enterprise City!
- Remember that you are always teaching- even when you don’t think you are
Students are constantly learning. It doesn’t matter whether or not you are trying to teach, and in reality it may be the case that students learn the most from you when you are not actually trying to teach something. It may be a lot to think that students are learning from the smallest details from your homework policy to how you react in various situations.
Tip: Flip it around so that you actually are teaching indirectly. Students will be more apt to learn from you when you are being you, rather than you reading out of a textbook. They will be more receptive to you as a person, so be sure to think about your actions and their impact on your students.
- Put students to work
Now, this is not to say give more homework or more assignments. Instead, consider giving work that is more demanding and challenging. Go for quality vs. quantity here- and do make your higher level of expectations clear to students. They may be excited to hear they have less projects or homework due, but they may shift their thinking when they learn more is expected of them with each piece of work.
- Have students have to depend upon each other
It’s difficult to teach dependability, but it is important and a big aspect of work ethic. Students are highly influenced by their peers and, for the most part, want to be accepted by those around them. Creating work where students have to rely upon each other helps instill some sense of accountability and thus dependability.
Tip: Group work is an obvious choice here, but there are other ways students depend upon each other. For example, one way to do this could be to come up with small assignments where students are on a rotation so one student presents to the class each day on something small. It could be that each month has a theme (ie May be environmental or February be presidents) and have a student present the class with a fact each day of the month. While no one is accountable for anyone aside from themselves, if the subject is interesting students will look forward taking a minute away from the textbooks to hear their classmates.
- Allow failure
Fear of failure can be detrimental and causes many students to avoid attempting work. This is obviously bad for the work ethic and bad for students in life in general. Show students that it is ok to fail and with that, show that success isn’t always possible- at least not necessarily on the first try. Failure should be seen as a hurdle, but not a barricade and the only true failure should be not trying at all.
- Award/recognize genuine effort
Once a student realizes failure doesn’t have to be a huge deal, it is good for them to have the motivation for success through reward and/or recognition. Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean that this needs to be only for those at the top- it may be for those who genuinely tried really hard. Be sure if you do award effort without success that you have seen a very solid effort. Don’t give the award just to be nice- students see through that and the award will have little to no meaning in that case anyways. On the other hand, if it is given to someone who deserves it other students will see that it does pay off to try- a great lesson to teach and a terrific motivator for work ethic.