Thursday, June 18, 2009

Don't eat the marshmallow.

In a study at Stanford University conducted over 25 years ago, a class of 5-year-olds was given a marshmallow and told not to eat it for 5 minutes, and only then would they be given a second marshmallow. The teacher then left and observed the class. 90% of the kids ate the marshmallow right away. (The rest licked it or ate the inside!) The kids were then followed for the next 25 years. Those who were able to delay the instant gratification and wait were off-the-charts more successful in every area of their life. What's the lesson? Good things come to those who wait. Many students graduate and feel such pressure to be the next Steve Jobs, the next Anderson Cooper, or superstar designer. It's fine if it takes you a little while to find the job you want. We all overestimate how quickly things are going to happen in a month or so and often give up or settle. And we all underestimate how different our lives can be in 6-9 months. Give yourself a longer runway.

I've heard this story before, but I don't remember where. How many people , especially teachers, can relate to this story. I offer many rewards in my classroom with our Renaissance Program. For example, students can get raffle tickets to earn a chance to earn prizes than include pens/pencils, games, homework pass, and other misc. stuff to just a homework pass. Many students choose to get the homework pass instead of waiting and taking a chance on a winning ticket. Now I understand that there is a chance that students may not earn the prize with the ticket and thus some students may not think it's worth the risk, but isn't that the whole point? Students tend to go the route of instant gratification.

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