How Do You Teach Work Ethic? Plus a Reading List

I’ve got two items to share today; one is a question, the other a book list.

First, the question: How do you teach students the value of working hard? There are two ways students can measure themselves in my class:

  1. Their grade
  2. Whether or not they have done their best and are actually pushing themselves to learn.

How do you build #2 into a student? How do you impart the value of hard work, of pushing yourself to ceaselessly grow? Whether students are Christian or not, this work ethic will serve them well. If they are Christian, especially, this is obeying God’s call to “work at [whatever you do] with all your heart” (Colossians 3:23 NIV).

I’d love to hear what anyone in the blogosphere has to say about that question.

Second, toward the beginning of Do Hard Things, Alex and Brett Harris tell of a day when their dad came home with a stack of books for them to read:

This list has me thinking that it would be fun to hand these to an independent study student and ask them to tell me what they make of them.


J. C. Ryle on Youth

This was quoted in Alex and Brett Harris’ Do Hard Things. I pray that it will encourage parents and teacher

s to not give up on the youths in their lives–what they will become later in life largely depends on what they become as teens.

“Youth is the seed-time of full age, the molding season in the little space of human life, the turning point in the history of [a] man’s mind.”

–J. C. Ryle

Rebelutionary Wisdom for Beginning to Do Hard Things

At the end of their book Do Hard Things, Alex and Brett Harris share three profiles of young people and how they began to obey God’s call to flee from lives of self-indulgence alone to lives driven by a holy ambition. Here is some wisdom that the twins gleaned from their profiles–these insights are great for gospel-centered self-reflection and repentance (also, note how well this would work as a way to assess your current performance at your job):

  • What do you need to get honest about, and to whom do you need to be honest about it?
  • What negative patterns or actions need to end?
  • Which people can best help you get from point A to point B? Make a plan to get connected with those people (it can be as simple as scheduling a time for coffee).
  • Figure out one or two key action steps that, once taken, will make it a lot tougher for you to “chicken out and turn back.” Decide when and how you will take these steps.
  • Acknowledge that you can’t succeed without God’s help–that we rely on Him for every last thing–and make a practical plan to stick close to Him.
  • Expect success,  because as you seek to obey God by the Holy Spirit’s empowerment, He is glorified.

I thought these insights were too good to not post on. Do get a copy of Do Hard Things if you haven’t already. It’s a great read for anyone, and it’s a great graduation gift!

Book Review: Do Hard Things, by Alex and Brett Harris

Recommended. A rigorous look at the popular myth of adolescence and how a movement of teenagers are mobilizing to defy it.

Being familiar with, I was excited when Do Hard Things became available through Multnomah’s Blogging for Books program. There are several reasons why this book will prove to be one of the most important I’ve read this year as a public school teacher.

First, as a teacher who strives to have a wide selection of quality, thought-provoking literature available to my students, it is great to have a book to point the reluctant reader towards by saying, “Hey, this book was written by a couple of teenagers.” Though Alex and Brett Harris defy society’s expectations of teenagers, the tone of their writing will connect well with their age-level peers–and, at the same time, they connect well with adults!

Second, as someone who works with teenagers every day in a high school classroom, reading Alex and Brett’s words were like watching someone put words to the thoughts and frustrations I’ve had for a long time. The Harris’ give compelling examples of teens from history and teens from today who prove that the Toys ‘R’ Us motto of “I don’t want to grow up” is a lie. I am eager to find ways to connect my students with the truth that spending their teen years simply seeking their pleasures and avoiding responsibility will lead to want, rather than any kind of lasting fulfillment or sense of purpose.

Third, Alex and Brett have done an excellent job of refining their ideas into memorable groupings. They spend the bulk of the book explaining and illustrating the “five kinds of hard things.” These chapters were some of my favorites, as I found myself challenged by every kind of “hard.” I also loved Alex and Brett’s three pillars of the rebelution–character, competence, and collaboration. When I read about these, my mind immediately went to work on how to modify the concept for use in the courses that I teach.

Fourth and finally, the Harris’ have clear love for the Gospel. Their book is one illustration of how, indeed, the Gospel changes all of life; that is, that Jesus’ life and death and resurrection in our stead impacts every single aspect of human experience, including the teenage years.

I recommend this book to any and every teenager and teacher of teenagers. Even if you are not a Christian (like this reviewer), there is plenty here to reflect on and implement.

Here are some related books that I’d like to check out (though I haven’t read any of them yet):

Zach Hunter’s Generation Change & Be the Change

Peter Benson’s What Teens Need to Succeed

Sean Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens

Alex and Brett Harris’ Start Here

FCC Disclaimer: A complementary copy of this book was provided by Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group for review purposes.

Alex and Brett Harris Point to Keller’s “Meaning of the City” Sermon

Alex and Brett Harris (Do Hard Things; Start Here), whose inspires a lot of my approach to being a gospel-centered teacher, recently had this to say about Tim Keller’s hallmark city sermon:

“[The] concepts [in the sermon] are vital for rebelutionaries because they touch at the heart of why we do hard things, why we rebel against low expectations, and why we pursue character, competence, and collaboration. Is it for personal gain or glory? No. Is it to ensure “our team” wins the culture war? No. We do it so others might see our love and come to know the Source of that love. We do it so others might see our good works and give glory to our Father in Heaven (Matt. 5:16).” (See full post here.)

Here are some notes that I took on this sermon this past Sunday.

Corrie ten Boom on Trusting God

I came across the following quote from Corrie ten Boom today while reading Do Hard Things, by Alex and Brett Harris:

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.

May we trust Him enough to obey him, even when it means stepping outside of our comfort zones or acting in spite of fear.