Stories of Struggle Help Students Persevere​

You've probably seen something similar to the image above before. It hints at how much work goes into being successful at something.


It's hard when looking from the outside to see this, though. We know that JK Rowling has sold millions of books but forget how she was a clinically depressed, unemployed single mom whose first book was rejected 12 times before it was picked up. 


There are hundreds of stories like this. A Wrinkle in Time was rejected 26 times. Anne Frank's diary was rejected 16 times. Oprah was fired from her first TV anchor job. Stephen Spielberg was rejected from film school. Walt Disney was told by his boss at a newspaper that he had no imagination. 


And what's interesting is that students benefit from hearing these stories of struggle. In the realm of science, researchers discovered that hearing stories of scientists' struggles improved their performance in science class. 


As this Mind/Shift article notes, "researchers found that students who heard ...a 'struggle story' improved their science performance post-intervention, relative to students in the control group. The effect was especially pronounced for lower-performing students, for whom 'exposure to struggling stories led to significantly better science-class performance than low-performing students who read achievement stories.'"


The iceberg image demonstrates that it takes persistence, the ability to fail, willingness to take risks, doing hard work, and setting and working toward goals to be successful. It's this combination that is the marker of success more often than raw talent, and when students hear stories of people who have struggled, it helps them understand what it really takes to succeed.