One of the most elusive keys to success is understanding how to teach grit to our students. Grit is defined as courage, resolve and strength of character. Students who display grit have passion for what they do, stamina to keep going even when they fail, perseverance and sticking to a goal that is often off in the distance. Anyone with grit knows that it’s just worth it. We stick to something because it pays a dividend that far exceeds immediate gratification. It’s often the difficult path to take, but is always rewarding. In education, grit is the perseverance and passion for long-term goals. How in the world can we teach that to students? In this “tuesdays” I will attempt to look at a real-world example that inspired me to take a look at grit.
A creative website
Although I will not be pointing to a particular creative website, I would like to share a story of a teacher with grit. Teaching grit in isolation is impossible. Modeling grit is the best example. I recently visited with a teacher who showed me what grit really means. Don Perry was given what to most would be an impossible task - to transform an antiquated, dirty, broken technology lab into a functional, module lab setting. With over 200 hours invested during the summer and evenings, Mr. Perry turned neglected and missing equipment/cabinetry into useful and working modules for his students. So much of the original lab equipment was missing and/or broken that he began repairing and recreating areas that now look new. Bug eaten papers, candy wrappers, juice boxes, potato chip bags, garbage and insects were found in every nook and cranny of this once vibrant classroom. Once Mr. Perry could determine what was missing and what was needed, he started fabricating parts and asking for help anywhere he could get it. One of the coolest areas he repaired was a 25-year old goggle cabinet because there was no money to buy a new one. What Mr. Perry accomplished is the best example of grit that I have seen in a long time. I just wanted to encourage Mr. Perry to tell his story especially to his students because the studies are showing that students will emulate grit when they see it or read about it. Grit is inspired and Mr. Perry, you are an inspiration.
An image to share
Before (above) and after pictures of Mr. Perry’s technology module lab
“We need to be gritty about getting our kids to be grittier.”
Angela Lee Duckworth
I would like to encourage you to do a little research on grit. Angela Lee Duckworth has a great little TED talk about her research on grit in the classroom. I was particularly impressed with her honesty that we really don’t know how to teach grit to students, but we certainly can model it. Angela has created a 12 item grit scale that may be interesting to try on yourself or perhaps your students. Edutopia re-blog Vicki Davis’s post on True Grit in the classroom and it’s worth your read. Finally, I would like to recommend ASCD’s Educational Leadership article from September 2013 – Research Says/ Grit Plus Talent Equals Student Success. One thing we can all observe in today’s classroom is an increasing pattern of a lack of grit. How can we turn that around so that more of our students reap the benefits of hard work and its beautiful payoff? I encourage you to instill that in your students with perseverance. Don’t give up. You may make the difference for one of them.
How do you do that?
How do we teach grit to the students? Frankly, no one is really sure, but the indicators are clear that grit can be learned through inspiration. Dr. Carol Dweck has written a book entitled, “Mindset.” She is passionate about helping people make changes to reach their highest potential. She says, “I have always been deeply moved by outstanding achievement and saddened by wasted potential.” Her theory of fixed mindset vs. growth mindset is very helpful for us as educators. How can we expect our students to become “grittier” if they have no confidence, good examples or reason to be motivated? Our minds are constantly monitoring and interpreting. Fixed mindsets are focused on judging. Growth mindsets are more concerned with correcting a problem, changing a course and being attuned to making things better. I highly recommend some time well spent with Dr. Dweck’s Nature of Change. Mr. Perry could have had a fixed mindset about the impossible situation he faced, but instead he activated his grit to overcome what would seem ridiculous to most and displayed a growth mindset that created a classroom of excellence for his students. Kudos to you Mr. Don Perry!
As always, I am