We're happy to see you here at the Benevolent Blog. Please also visit us at www.benevolent.net!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Teaching by Doing

Sometimes when we post a need to the site, there’s more to the situation than what shows on the surface. Elaine’s need is one of them.

In addition to taking care of her mother, Elaine has found herself raising her granddaughter. This means, clearly, that there’s been some stress and disruption in Elaine’s granddaughter’s life and that more than other kids, this young girl needs not only warm, strong, nurturing parenting -- she needs a role model actively demonstrating that learning is both important and possible, and that adults can find reward in their work.

Photo of ElaineElaine believes it’s never too late to go to school and learn, and this is not a vague hope for her. Here’s what she told us: “... I decided I have to do something with my life, and that it’s never too late to start. I went back to culinary school last year to get a degree to work in restaurants and one day maybe even have my own business.”  Elaine needs help getting some basic supplies like sturdy shoes to allow her to stand all day, a set of knives, and a mixer that will allow her to practice at home. 

There are many factors that can help set a child up for success in adulthood, but none is as important as the people who are parenting and modeling for that child what’s possible in life and how each of us has value and unique strengths.  As she pursues her goals, Elaine models determination and success for her granddaughter and all the kids in her life.

So when we wonder what we can do to improve educational and career outcomes for children who grow up in low-income households, here’s an answer – help the adults in their lives succeed and thrive as they pursue their goals.

There’s science behind this. A 2006 study found that while learning cognitive skills in school is important to future success, noncognitive elements like motivation, perseverance and tenacity are equally important. Where do kids learn perseverance? Overwhelmingly, from the adults in their lives who model it. (Heckman 2006)

Here’s where we can make a huge difference. When we help parents (young and old) to succeed in their educational and work pursuits, we change outcomes for at least two generations. “Parents who succeed in completing additional schooling or secure a higher-paying job are likely to have children with better health, schooling, and labor market outcomes.” (Magnuson 2007)

It’s as simple as that. Elaine’s got it right. Let’s help her achieve her educational and work goals as she parents her granddaughter, and models perseverance, motivation and tenacity.

- megan kashner
  founder & ceo