This morning on my way to work, I listened to a great piece on NPR called "Does Teaching Kids To Get 'Gritty' Help Them To Get Ahead?" The article goes on to explain that a child's grit (determination, the willingness to fight on and never give up) can actually be a better predictor of success than can IQ score or standardized test scores. But it also states that it can be hard to implement strategies to teach 'grit,' that it seems to be an inherent trait that certain kids have and certain kids don't.
Yet, I've been stuck thinking about this all day. Every teacher deals with the kids who give up easily. We've all heard the 'this is hard, I quit' mentality that plagues so many children in our world today. Actually, those kids have probably always been there, and it can be easy to see them not being successful as they get older. After all, what is college all about? More than anything else, college tests your ability to do something for many years, dealing with tons of ridiculous garbage, bureaucracy, and politics, and finally get a degree and a job. College is all about grit and self-drive.
In the article, Jason Baehr, a philosophy professor at Loyola Marymount University says the following:
"But I'll say from our experience in the school, I see [kids learning to be grittier] all the time. ... You can create a classroom culture in which struggle and risk-taking is valued more than just getting the right answer."I made a challenge to myself this year, well a few actually, but what it came down to was creating a classroom focused on process and not product, struggle and rigor and not just right answers and policy. Overall, I feel validated, I feel that my students have shown a greater ability to problem solve, to persevere, and to challenge themselves than ever before in the past. Of course there are the exceptions, as with any class, but I feel that I'm finally coming into my own and creating a classroom culture that demands grit, and I want to grow that.
This article is spot on the way I feel about education at this point in my career. We can discuss hands on learning and investigative approaches, project based learning and strategies to instruct in literacy and math all day and never come to a consensus. But what we need to do is realize that not every child is going to persevere, especially in a subject they aren't passionate about. What we can do, however, is train kids to fight, and deal with their frustration in a constructive way. After all, school isn't supposed to be fun or easy. It's supposed to challenge students, to make them think, to make them frustrated, and to learn to think outside the box. Rigor, relevance, and a classroom focused on the active struggle is a great start. Please read or listen to the article, if you missed the link above, here it is again:
Does Teaching Kids To Get 'Gritty' Help Them To Get Ahead?