Let’s Get Gritty

*note – this is a cross post, the article will appear in the Condit Connection this week 🙂

Welcome back to a new school year at Condit!  The quiet hallways of July have been replaced with a bustle of activity and the buzz of student learning…in short it sounds like school again.  As we dive into another year of learning the seemingly ubiquitous conversation in education this fall centers on grit, how do we foster it in our students and how do we celebrate it in our classrooms?  For those of you who haven’t seen Angela Duckworth’s TED talk (http://goo.gl/asYSA) regarding her research into student resilience, it is certainly worth a watch and guaranteed to get you thinking about how we build tenacious students.  In the most recent edition of Educational Leadership Thomas Hoerr points out “that children cannot learn how to respond to adversity without experiencing it.”   This raises several questions, chiefly how do we help students experience adversity, even failure, in a safe way that can help build grit?  No easy answers, but several ways to consider:

  • Ensure rigorous instruction for all students.  Oddly enough, one could make the argument that our highest ability students may run the risk of not experiencing adversity while they are in school.  All students, from our highest ability to our most struggling learners, need to break a mental sweat and have the opportunity to learn from that struggle.
  • Foster a growth mindset in the classroom and at home.  Dr. Carol Dweck coined this phrase in her research that looked at students who believed achievement came from hard work, in contrast to those who believed their ability was fixed or static.  We need to ensure our students see the value of effort and that the greatest achievements come from sticking to it.
  • Praise the effort, not the result.  This may have been one of the first bits of advice I was given as a new parent and the message has withstood the test of time.  It is the work that was put in that should be our focus not necessarily the end result; when hard work is applied results will follow. 

It’s no easy task, that’s for sure, but there is a wealth of research that is steadily coming out about the value grit has on personal achievement well beyond school.  My greatest hope for all or our students this year is that each of them try their hardest, learn to deal with adversity, and become grittier as a result of their efforts.  Building a sense of resiliency and determination in elementary school is one of the greatest gifts we will be able to give our Condit Cats.  Let’s have a fantastic 2013-2014 school year.