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Get Gritty and Grow

Posted by on in Education Policy
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Before, when I would hear the word 'grit' I would think of John Wayne. A strong, silent figure standing in solidarity with a cigarette and a 5 o'clock shadow; this embodiment of grit refuses to smile and takes no prisoners. Tough and strong, grit is essentially a cowboy. So how did my association of the word grit evolve from The Duke to the resilient five year old that still raises her hand after offering an incorrect answer? Let me explain... Duckworth says:

"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." 

Students with Grit

The hot topic in education as of late is teaching students to be more gritty. We are slowly backing away from adhering to each student's intelligence modality and guiding them to think outside their neurological comfort zone. Encouraging students to make mistakes and pick themselves up afterwards will build a more resilient and courageous child. Rather than driving towards a product of high achievement, we are now putting more thought into the process itself. To me, this enables students to learn from their mistakes and adapt to the post-education world with more ease. Angela Duckworth, the pioneer in 'grit research,' highlighted in her TED talk that grittiness is tied to endurance. 

In her research, Duckworth also noted grit to be a stronger indicator of success than IQ score. Students that refuse to give up or shut down after a failure are more likely to follow through on their goals and dreams. Embracing a growth mindset will also help students achieve more grittiness; when they understand that intelligence is not fixed, but can be developed, students are more likely to invest in their learning (and thinking).

Gritty Balance 

Why limit the concept of grit to just our students? As a teacher recently aware just how fixed my mindset has been, can I be grittier about helping my students achieve grit? Though building wide culture takes years to mold and cultivate, it's time we become more gritty. This can pose as a challenge for many schools in the era of accountability. With emphasis on test scores at an all time high, it's difficult to nurture the process when so much demand is on the final product. We find ourselves in a constant trade off of depth of understanding versus breadth of material. Teachers and school leaders will need to find that balance between appeasing test score expectations and planting the seeds of grit. The initial stages will be tough, as instructional time will need to be supplemented with 'Grit 101.' However, after the first blossom, we will see students applying what they've learned and persevering. We could enjoy the fruits of our labor.



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Brianna Baranowski is a California transplant teaching in America's heartland. She leads a Kindergarten classroom, and is constantly amazed by how much her students do the teaching. Brianna is a graduate student at Drake University, pursuing a Master's of Science degree in Education Leadership.
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Guest Sunday, 23 October 2016