A friend recently posted this article
, originally published last April, in response to the old poster promoting college education with the tagline, “Work Smart, Not Hard”. The poster on which the editorial is based elicits a number of responses from me, mainly that we cannot have students thinking hard work and smart work are mutually exclusive.
While Mike Rowe takes a slightly different approach in his commentary, focusing on the need for tradesmen and tradeswomen in today’s economy, I want to explore the simple fact that pursuing any type of higher education involves hard work.
Our goal at Proctor is not to equip students with an education that will allow them to avoid hard work in the future by ‘outthinking’ problems. Instead, our mission is to create a foundation so solid in students that they have the confidence to embrace hard work when it comes their way. We are all very fortunate to be at a school like Proctor, either as faculty/staff or as students, but that does not mean we are exempt from working hard.
As students return from winter break this week, they face eight weeks of hard work ahead of them before the end of the term. US History students are in the midst of term-long research projects. American Literature students are putting the finishing touches on their Hay’s Speaking Contest speeches. Algebra 2 students are realizing just how complex the quadratic formula really is. Hard work abounds.
While school can often feel like hard work, our hope is that students are always conscious of why they are working so hard. To have context and purpose to one’s pursuits provides additional motivation. For American Literature students preparing to present speeches in front of their peers, motivation to work hard comes from understanding the value of public speaking beyond Maxwell Savage Room 9.
Theodore Roosevelt wrote in 1910, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again...who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
We want our students to be the ones who are in the arena, as Roosevelt said, working hard, and risking failure because they know it will lead to personal growth. We want our students to spend themselves in worthy causes, to understand that putting in hard work and smart work are equally important to achieving their goals. Excellence does not merely happen, it must be earned. We embrace, and celebrate, the hard work that lies before us.