If you aren’t familiar with the term Grit, you might want to look up so you don’t get run over by the bandwagon! Seems the phrase and the topic pops up quite frequently of late. Ironically I started writing this post and then tuned in to hear NPR run a segment this morning Does Teaching Kids To Get ‘Gritty’ Help Them Get Ahead? and another this afternoon On The Syllabus: Lessons In Grit. I highly recommend giving them a listen.
Angela Duckworth is a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania who coined the term “grit” (yes, based upon the novel and/or movie True Grit) She received the MacArthur “genius grant” for it in the fall of 2013. According to Duckworth, “Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.“-Angela Duckworth TED Talks April 2013
The concept of Grit goes hand in hand with Mindset, in particular with a Growth Mindset. People with a growth mindset believe brains and/or talent are a starting point, not the only point. They believe that with passion, practice and perseverance (Grit!) goals can be achieved and talents can be developed. With a Growth Mindset (and Grit) students can learn from struggles and even failure more successfully. They embrace the notion that FAIL = First Attempt in Learning and the word yet follows most “I can’t” statements.
The work of researchers and educators at this point is to see whether Grit or even Mindset can be taught to students in schools. I think over the next few years we will see some compelling studies and some supports for schools interested in fostering these traits with their students. Certainly the work of Carol Dweck and her Brainology program is gaining traction in many schools.
But focusing on students alone is not where my thinking has coalesced on the topic, what about the teachers? If a profession ever needed Grit, teaching would surely be one. There are struggles and failures on a daily basis when one is tasked with the education of dozens of very distinct and unique individuals. There are parents with whom we need to communicate, administrators we need to please, curricula we need to master and a public that often views us as social welfare recipients. Teachers (especially elementary) are often expected to be experts at everything! Talk about a recipe for failure some days!
I work with new teachers every year and often wonder who will not only make it, but who will thrive and excel. I work with veteran teachers who have been presented with ever changing reforms, initiatives, standards and evaluation systems. I marvel at those who face every challenge with tenacity and a positive attitude and I look for ways to support those who are frustrated and exhausted. Most of us lie somewhere in the middle of this spectrum.
Maybe one way to build our Grit and that of our colleagues is to first be aware of our Mindset and our level of Grit. Understanding how we approach challenge and/or failure could be a first step in learning new strategies for dealing with them and help us shift our thinking more successfully. You can check out the GRIT SCALES here.
Another way might be to cultivate a climate of Growth Mindset with our colleagues. We can celebrate and be inspired by the success of others without feeling threatened or judgmental. We can seek out and learn from feedback without seeing it as a criticism of ourselves as people, but rather as a tool for stretching our abilities and understandings. We can recognize and acknowledge effort. The teacher who always lucks out with the “good class” isn’t just lucky. We can examine what it is that she/he does to create those conditions year after year. We can embrace challenge and spend less time resisting the inevitable changes that come each year. Lean on one another, problem solve together, encourage, praise and coach each other.
We can model Grit for our students. Let them see us struggle with something and not give up. Show them how we work through problems. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Show them what stamina looks like in ‘the real world’. Help them set long term goals and not just seek instant gratification. Let them feel some discomfort in grappling with new and unknown and resist the urge to jump in too quickly. Let there be silence as students endeavor to comprehend ideas, formulate thoughts and solve problems. Teach them the power of the word, YET by using it often.
I think we can all agree that success comes from talent, hard work, perseverance, and passion (and occasionally some luck). How we help our students and ourselves achieve success will depend upon the grit we display as we grow and learn. The mindset we espouse may very well determine how ‘true’ our grit really is.
Share your own ideas for teaching grit.
I welcome your feedback as an opportunity to continue to grow and learn!
What’s On My Book Radar?
I finally got my hands on Natalie Lloyd’s Snicker of Magic. I couldn’t wait to read the book I have been hearing so much about and I must say it has been worth the wait. In fact, I have not yet finished reading it, I am totally savoring this one. Felicity Pickle is a 12 year old girl who can see words as an aura around people and objects. I am fascinated by the entire cast of characters who live and pass through Midnight Gulch, the town with just a ‘snicker of magic’ left in it. Layered with compelling back stories of the history of the town and Felicity’s own family- this story is woven with a special magic from the first page! This will be one of those rare books I don’t want to leave, so I am in no hurry to finish. Oddly, I’m finding my ice cream craving has returned as well!!