“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Author Unknown – Determination
What is the best way to respond to hard times?
Tough times greet all of us in varying degrees. The challenge is how to figure out exactly how we should behave when those tough times arrive. One plan is to push through the difficulties and emerge stronger at the other end. That way, our pain can be short-lived. We can also stop the pain and change direction so that we can avoid the hardship and discover joy on the other side.
Join Steve and Dan Fouts – founders of Teach Different and twin brothers with over 50 years of teaching experience – for a compelling conversation about determination, enriched by the Teach Different Method.
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Dan Fouts 00:00
Hello, Steve and Dan Fouts here from Teach Different. We’re veteran teachers from the United States bringing educators together from around the world to learn a simple conversation method, which we model on this podcast for you. If you’re a teacher, administrator, or parent who wants to use the power of conversations to build stronger relationships and fight polarization, stay tuned to hear the impact our method can have on your discussions. Then join our Community of Educators at teachdifferent.com for additional resources and to participate in lively conversations among teachers and faculty, free for 30 days.
Dan Fouts 00:29
Hello, everybody. Welcome to the Teach Different podcast. This week, we’re very excited to explore a quote on determination by an anonymous source. The quote has its origins in a variety of places, and has been attributed to people like Winston Churchill, but nobody knows who originally said the quote. We’re going to keep it as an anonymous quote, but it’s a really good one. To remind everybody of the method, we’re going to start with a quote, then we’re going to explore the claim of the quote, what is it trying to say. Interpret the quote in our own language while thinking of what your students would say about the quote. We want to bring this to the classroom. Once the students explore the claim of the quote, sharing their own personal stories, which is always important, then you introduce the counterclaim, a reasonable idea against the claim. Then we share our personal stories, and end with an essential question. That’s essentially the method. We’re very excited this week to explore this quote on determination by an anonymous source. “If you are going through hell, keep going.”
“If you are going through hell, keep going.” Just for fun, the earliest evidence of this quote came in a 1943 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel of Boston where someone asked a man how he was and he replied, “I’m going through hell.” His friend replied, “Well, keep on going, that’s no place to stop.” That’s when this quote first appeared. And now it’s been transformed to “if you are going through hell, keep going.” Steve, what’s the claim? What is this quote saying to you specifically?
Steve Fouts 02:38 – Claim
The reason I love this quote is that it seems very clear what it’s saying. If you’re going through a difficult time or circumstance, and the world isn’t going your way, then keep going. To me this says, don’t stop and feel sorry for yourself, but have faith that it will end at some point. This is my read on the quote. It’s going to end at some point, you just have to get through it. Don’t spend a bunch of time thinking about your situation, just get through it, and then reflect later. Determination and perseverance are the things that come to mind.
Dan Fouts 03:34
When you go through a rough time, you just keep pushing. I’m thinking of this in a classroom of elementary kids. You might want to change the word hell to “if you’re going through bad times, keep going.” That might be a way to adjust the quote to make it more age appropriate. I agree, this is about determination and persistence. There’s a tendency to want to stop when we hit hard times, and change our direction. That’s not what this quote is preaching. It’s saying, just go through with it. That’s great wisdom.
Steve Fouts 04:18
It is. It’s saying don’t become too conscious of what you’re doing, just put your head down, and you’ll get through it. The picture I have in my mind are those motorcycle stunt people waiting in front of a tunnel that’s on fire. Their job is to drive through the tunnel on their motorcycle. It has to be bad in there, but the worst thing to do is stop. You have to know that there’s something at the end and then you can get through it. That’s the picture that comes to mind for me. Another thing I like about the quote is that it’s going to elicit stories from people, because most everybody has gone through a difficult time. I really like the quote as a conversation starter, because I think people are going to have a lot to say about this.
Dan Fouts 05:32
I’m wondering what the kids will say about this. Let’s say this is one of those conversations that stalls, where people just don’t start for whatever reason. One thing you could do as a teacher is to jump in and ask if anyone has given a public speech. When it’s going badly, this quote is saying to keep going. It will be over in five minutes. It might be uncomfortable, but not as uncomfortable as stopping after a minute and sitting back down in your seat.
Steve Fouts 06:11
Great example. I would even share a personal example with them by talking about my first year of teaching and how difficult that was. After you’ve been in the classroom for a while, the kids think teaching is easy. I would share how difficult it was in the beginning, but that I came to school every day. Even though I didn’t think I was a very productive teacher, I knew that the class was going to be over in June, and I just had to finish my first year. That’s what I would share personally.
Dan Fouts 06:36
I would move this conversation to the pandemic. We are all going through our own kind of personal hard times. Your students can speak to the wisdom of getting through this together. How do we stop talking about it, and how are we going to make it to the end of the year? We don’t like wearing these masks. How are we going to finish this off? Let’s just keep going. What’s the purpose of getting frustrated? I think there will be a lot of venting, which might be really good. Maybe the kids and adults need that. That’s a personal experience that everyone shares.
Steve Fouts 07:48
Yeah, everyone’s going to relate to that. If you use the Google Form to get responses beforehand, some students will likely share some personal things. Hopefully, some of them will be willing to share a difficult personal situation with the class. You’re going to get to know your classroom this way. This is a really good quote for that.
Dan Fouts 08:15
Definitely. There’s a counterclaim to this, of course. How would you approach the counterclaim?
Steve Fouts 08:24
I don’t know. Do you want to try it yourself? Go ahead.
Dan Fouts 08:27 – Counterclaim
Well, the first thing that popped into my mind is, if you’re going through hell, or if you’re going through hard times, stop what you’re doing. Be smart, and change direction. That might be the wisest decision. Don’t go through it. What’s that quote? If you do the same thing over and over and over, and get the same result…. That’s the definition of insanity. That’s kind of related to this. You have to change course, and be smart sometimes.
Steve Fouts 09:09
Yeah. Determination is the theme for this quote, but you could also use decision making. How are you making decisions? Sometimes you’re in hell because of your own actions and choices. If the world isn’t going well, and you’ve noticed that you’ve lost some friends or people are looking at you a little differently, then stop and think about that. Check in with yourself. Are you doing something wrong, do you you need to make a correction, or do you need to just get out of this situation as soon as possible? These are normal responses when you’re going through stuff. It’s not always about putting your head down to get through it.
Dan Fouts 09:46
Maybe the kids will connect with this example. They wanted to challenge themselves by taking an AP class, and now they’re overwhelmed. In their heart, they want to be challenged, and they want to do well, but it’s not working out. Dropping down a level or changing classes might be the right thing to do for their own mental health. It’s a tough call, but sometimes the best decision.
Steve Fouts 10:56
If you have an older crowd, you can bridge the topic of human relationships that become toxic or unproductive. You have to decide if you want to stay in the relationship or make a change. That can be a very difficult decision to make, because you want to be loyal to your friends. Maybe choosing different acquaintances is what you need to do.
Dan Fouts 11:54
They could bring up friends whom they’ve lost. Like when they move from elementary school to middle school, or middle school to high school. They have to decide if it’s worth maintaining the friendship. That’s a tough decision. It takes courage and self-confidence. During this the part of the conversation, depending on your age group and how you use this quote, when you can get into the importance of having self-confidence in a relationship context. Another example could be a job. You have a job that you’re trying to like because you’re making money, but it’s not working out. Maybe you should quit. That’s another one that kids might connect with.
Steve Fouts 12:51
I don’t think that quitting or stopping is the only counterclaim to keep going. Reflecting on what’s happening is important. Learn why things are the way they are, so you don’t make the same mistake in the future. You don’t have to stop. You can’t stop being a brother. You can’t stop being a son, or a daughter. Sometimes when you’re struggling with those types of relationships, it might take a different awareness or understanding to get through the hell that you’re going through. It doesn’t have to be stopping or quitting.
Dan Fouts 14:11
Yeah, it can be slowing down, as you said. A time to reflect. You can ask the students what types of decisions would allow us to slow down and reflect when you still want to be determined. You’re just changing your speed, not your direction. You’re still going through it. What kind of decisions would fall under that category? That would be interesting. That would require a lot of thinking.
Steve Fouts 14:46
That’s a really good way to put it. Sometimes when I’m in a bad situation, I take notes. I realize I’m kind of stuck and I’m going to have to get through it. But, I’m also saying that I’m not doing this again, because it got me here. I’m trying to learn while I’m doing it. It’s not easy, though. Going back to the claim, getting through it, then doing some reflection is also a good strategy.
Dan Fouts 15:22
Yeah, there are different techniques that people could use with this. As we’re getting deeper into this conversation, I’m seeing all kinds of directions that this could go with determination and decision making. For a history curriculum connection, you could use any kind of situation where a leader went through hard times, and had to keep pursuing the same direction in order to get through it. Winston Churchill, who some people attribute this quote to, had to get through World War II. He had to make sure that England was not taken over by the the Nazis. History would be a great place to share this quote.
Steve Fouts 16:21
Perseverance might be another theme. You can apply it to a difficult math or science problem. This might be a great quote to remind people that sometimes what you’re trying won’t always work out. Are you going to quit and do something else, or are you going to stick with it? It takes some faith that things are going to work out. If you don’t have faith, you’re not going to keep going. You’re going to do everything you can to get out of your situation.
Dan Fouts 17:03
Maybe the way to have hope and faith is to push through and have success every once in a while. Then, it’s easier to have faith and hope that it will be better. This quote touches some very human themes of quitting, perseverance, and determination. There’s a lot here.
Dan Fouts 17:27 – Essential Question
It’s time for the essential question to wrap up this conversation. Before I give the essential question we’ve created, the kids may have written some interesting essential questions on the Google Form that you can access before having this conversation. However, if you’re looking for one to have ready, what is the best way to respond to hard times? We’ve looked at many different options. That question can get people thinking and you can apply it to curriculum. What is the best way to respond to hard times?
Steve Fouts 18:19
Yeah, that’s a good one. People who agree with the claim will say, just get through it, and don’t talk about it. Other people might say that if you don’t learn from this, then it wasn’t worth it. If you’re going to go through hard times, you want to learn from it. Sometimes that means slowing down and reflecting. That’s a good question. I see students answering it in different ways.
Dan Fouts 18:51
If you wanted to tie this essential question to the pandemic, then I think you would have a rich assignment, because that’s something everybody is going through. It would be interesting to see how everyone is responding to the hard times that we’re currently in. There are a lot of opportunities here.
Dan Fouts 19:12
Thanks, everybody. We hope you’re walking away feeling energized by some great ideas, and have a sense of confidence that you too can master the art and science of conversations to make a lasting impact. We at Teach Different are dedicated to supporting you along that journey. Please visit teachdifferent.com to join our Community of Educators for additional resources and engaging discussion among fellow teachers and administrators, free for 30 days. We’ll see you there and next time on the Teach Different Podcast, take care!