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Brilliance is the Result of Dull Work


I'm pretty sure I read this quote somewhere when I was a teenager, but I've never been able to attribute it to anyone. Nevertheless, it's something that's stuck with me ever since. I work intermittently as a teaching assistant, which basically means spending full days thinking about how best to help children learn. I witness how some of the Year One children struggle with really simple mathematical concepts and wonder how they will ever make it to high school. Or how some of the Year Fours can't even hold concentration enough to read one page of a book. But with effective teaching, somehow they all manage to progress.

A strong philosophy of the school I work at is the idea of having a "growth mentality". We don't tell kids they're clever - we tell them they have worked hard. It's not acceptable for the children to use phrases like "I can't do that". One of the examples that's often used is that it takes ages for babies to walk, but you never see anyone that can't walk just because they gave up trying to learn to walk as an infant, and consequently, as we get older, we shouldn't lose the motivation to pick ourselves up and keep trying every time we fail at something.

I've often been told that once you're past a certain age, you stop learning effectively. I feel like this is one of the biggest lies I've ever been fed. After a day of teaching kids who are often distracted and tired and too young to understand what a gift education is, I go home to do my own work and feel grateful that it is only my own brain I have to wrestle with. I'm old enough to fully embrace my own "learning objective". I'm old enough to understand the need to be motivated. The older I am, the more aware I am of learning methods that work for me and how to make the best use of my time.

I think the major difference between the attitude of a lot of kids compared to the way you operate as an adult is that most kids aren't developed enough to really get beyond the desire for instant gratification. The best thing about being an adult is that you have had years of reaping the rewards of what maybe at the time seemed like a joyless and pointless thing to do. You probably work hard simply as a habit as well as having had consistent proof that hard work pays off.

I always find that when the smallest details of what I do are done to a high standard, everything else will fall into place. If you're as lucky as I am, you enjoy every second of the process, which certainly makes it easier, but even if you don't, producing a result that you're proud of is a pretty fulfilling way to live your life. At the school I work in, this attitude of emphasis on the details is instilled into the kids, from polished shoes to the neatness of their handwriting.

People rarely become brilliant by not giving a fuck.

It only seems fitting to end this with another favourite quote of mine from Thomas Edison:

"Genius is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration. Accordingly, a 'genius' is often merely a talented person who has done all of his or her homework."


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