Posts Tagged ‘grit’

question2A thank you to Matt Schaefer (@SchaeferCHS), a colleague, for reading my blog and challenging my thinking by sharing the “Downside of Grit” by Alfie Kohn. This would be a perfect companion piece to Duckworth’s TED Talk for students and teachers to explore. After reading the article, I am left with a few questions to think about when growing grit in students:

1. What happens when students do not choose positive or productive goals? How do we guide goal setting without stealing creative ownership? Students need to have ownership so that they are not just compliant but genuinely motivated.

2. For how long should one persist if the passion for the goal is lost? Is this in essence the lack of grit we are seeking or is there a time to fold? I love the reference to the proverbial Law of Holes in this article: “When you’re in one, stop digging.” I spoke of creating an environment where failure is is something we learn from, does this undermine grit?

3. How do we build a framework for students that encourages stops along the ways to reflect, reevaluate and adjust when appropriate?

I would agree that the buzz-worthiness of grit in education is disturbing and could be used as a tool for compliance, but I would challenge Mr. Kohn that growing grit in kids can be about implementing democratic, collaborative experiences where kids don’t give up when things are difficult. That kids are taught to be resourceful, critical consumers of information and work together to find answers to their questions. I do not agree with intentionally boring students to build persistence, but I do believe modeling and encouraging behaviors like perseverance, ambition, and tenacity with the growth mindset fosters learning and learning is our job.


If we commit to the idea that students need to be gritty to increase their odds of success in the world, what does that mean, what does that look like? As a leader, I need to do more than have conversations with staff about providing opportunities for choice, creativity, innovation and passion. I need to model this by affording teachers to be passion driven, innovative, creative and allowing time to foster those relationships with students. What this looks like….

  • loosening up of pacing guides
  • celebrating innovation
  • allowing failure
  • reflection
  • cultivating passion
  • creative scheduling
  • saying yes
  • new classes
  • finding funding
  • telling our story
  • rewarding growth (not on standardized tests)

I believe one of the most rewarding and beneficial tools for me in my growth as a leader has been finding an authentic audience. Conversations with excellent educators in my building, blogging and building a PLN on Twitter has given me confidence, opportunities to reflect and helped me to develop beliefs about where we need to go in education. Being intentional about affording teachers and students authentic audiences that will help them grow and develop passions and grit is going to be a priority for me in 2014. That would be a great Twitter Chat #miched #edchat ; how to find authentic audiences for students.

Rigor, relevance and relationships were my “Big 3” when I began my leadership role about 7 years ago. I would say my “Big 3” have certainly changed but not all that much just in order- relationships, relevance and rigor. I may call them different things but the three R’s are still very important to what drives my work. Although relationships and people are the most critical elements of a successful school, relevance is something that is far more difficult to attain but equally as important. As for rigor…

“Rigor is defined as thno student ever minee difficult and unpleasant conditions or experiences that are associated with something; harsh inflexibility in opinion, temper, or judgment; an act or instance of strictness, severity, or cruelty.” Rigor is important but a little overrated.

As I stated in my previous post, passion based learning or teaching sets the stage for growing grit. It is the relevance to what we do. Students need to know the why. For generations educators have been asked the age old question, “Why do we need to learn this?” We should be able to answer that for students. As the information age becomes part of our past thanks to Google, it is increasingly important for people to ask why and why not questions. We need to foster questioning in our students.  The answers to those questions provides the relevance that students need in order to be curious, inquisitive and gritty.

Students need to see what passion looks like. Teachers need to model passion for their content and for learning. Passion is necessary to grow grit.  5 ways to instill passion in your students and in your classroom:

1. Give students choice

2. Celebrate innovation and risk taking – be ready to take the risks

3. Take time to discover students’ passions

4. Find students authentic audiences for their passions

5. Provide time for creative thought and inquiry

Wordle: GRIT

Grit seems to be the new buzz word in education these days. I am not sure this is a new concept for educators or not, but I have seen a decrease in student drive or motivation. When we talk about things like rigor, common core, text complexity, etc., I often hear things like “The students don’t do the work we give them now,” or ” I will lose the bottom 30% of my students, how can I push forward if they don’t get it?”

I believe in our genuine attempts to help student learn and grow, we have, at times, done them a disservice by doing the learning or thinking  for them. As a result, many of students have thinking fatigue. Students are shutting down when they face difficulty or struggle. I see this in my own children. At the beginning of the year when the district went to a new math series, my daughter shut down at night when she faced the “stretch you thinking” question at the end of the assignment. She knew the math, but struggled with the real wold application and setting up the problem. The problems, more often than notm were multi-step problems requiring real thinking. When she faced frustration,we began telling her that the learning was in the struggle. She doesn’t ask for help anymore but it took months.

According to research by Duckworth, grit is a better predictor of success than intelligence. I took the grit test and it seems I am 70% grittier than most (I am not sure how I feel about that.) It is our responsibility as educators to prepare kids for the future and grit is necessary. How do we grow grit? After considerable reading, below are ten strategies we should use to grow grit in our students.

1. Teach the growth mindset (The Learning is in the Struggle)

Carol Dweck’s Mindset is a great read about the power of the growth mindset versus the fixed mindset. We have to teac

Dweck Mindseth students that they are not born with skills, traits and qualities that are fixed, but that they can grow and change.

2. Show growth to students and reward the work

Too often we provide students feedback that reinforces the fixed mindset by assigning a summative grade at the end. We need to recognize and celebrate resilience and perseverance in students that work through struggle. Grades should reflect the learning.

3. Model Grit

Let students see us struggle with something- maybe reading a tough text, writing a poem, or solving a problem. My kids are baffled at my grit when playing Candy Crush:)

4. Track your grit

If we are going to teach the growth mindset, we need to show the growth. Measure student grit by giving them a short pre-test -maybe provide them a problem with no answer and time how long they try to solve it. To be fair, let them know you are looking for how hard they try to solve the problem not looking for the answer. Tell the students you are interested in growing their grit and then allow them to track their grit.

5. Reflect on their grit growth

To follow up with number 4, allow the students to reflect by writing about how their grit is growing (literacy.)

6. Challenge students

When we challenge students, we need to make sure we make our challenges attainable. This means differentiating for your students. Their is nothing more discouraging then a challenge you know you can not overcome.

7. Set long term goals

Students have to set long term goals that are meaningful to them. This will be difficult to do. Model examples of good long term goals. Share the SMART model as a framework.

8. Provide small victories along the way

When setting long term goals, small victories will keep students engaged and motivated. Celebrate the victories to help establish the growth mindset.

9. Create an environment that allows failure

Students need to be allowed to fail and learn from failure. The classroom environment should foster risk taking and tolerance.

10. Lastly and most importantly, Passion Based Learning

Part 2 of 3…

Other Resources:
Angela Lee Duckworth TED Talk
Dweck, Carol S. Mindset. London: Robinson, 2012. Print.