Steps (or not) to success

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The difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is how
you use them.”

~ Unknown

I am working in a poor, academically-disadvantaged school. But some students seize learning. These students will manage in college because they keep working no matter how many obstacles crop up in this battered, old wreck of a building with its lack of air conditioning and frequent staff turnover.

I wonder how to tap this drive. What motivates these students? It’s not just smarts. The halls of this school are filled with smart kids who are letting learning slip through their fingers, unconcerned with any future or even present goals.

Studies show that people who defer gratification to receive a larger reward later do better in life. But what makes that kid decide to wait 20 minutes to get two pieces of candy instead of one? Most importantly, can deferred gratification be taught somehow?