The Power of Grit

I was fortunate enough to grow up just 20 minutes away from my grandparents’ century- old farm. I have fond memories of spending time on the farm as a child, and it is still one of my favorite places to visit. My grandfather, a self-employed farmer, spent long days planting and harvesting corn, soybeans, wheat, and tobacco, baling hay on hot summer days, and tending to cattle, hogs, and sheep. Despite the challenges he faced from Mother Nature and other unforeseen events, he never gave up. Right now, at 83 years old, he is still farming!  I learned at a very young age, the importance of hard work and perseverance through watching my grandfather face significant challenges with the uncertainty of farm life.

When I began teaching 6 years ago, I quickly realized that the lessons I learned growing up had many implications for my teaching career. Perseverance, hard work, motivation, and stamina is what we call “grit”. In the TED Talk linked below, Angela Duckworth describes the value of grit in schools. She argues that doing well in school is measured by more than a student’s IQ, or ability to learn quickly and easily. Duckworth concludes that rather, it is having grit that makes students successful. Grit, she says, is “passion and perseverance for very long term goals…. having stamina… sticking with your future… living life as a marathon, not a sprint.” Her research suggests that “grittier” kids are more likely to graduate.

If we know that students with grit are successful in school, the question becomes, Where do we go from here?  How do we develop grit in students? How do we teach kids motivation and stamina? Duckworth addresses this issue in her talk. She says that science doesn’t know a lot about grit. There is not much out there on how to teach it, and grit is a difficult concept to teach. Today’s students live in a world where technology is rapidly advancing and quick fixes are expected. It is so important, though, that students are taught how to face challenges in stride, by developing grit.

One way to build a foundation for developing grit is by fostering a growth mindset. Growth mindset is Carol Dweck’s idea that intelligence is not fixed, but rather, can change as we learn and grow. While failure can be difficult to accept, it helps us learn. We must teach our students to be more “gritty” by helping them develop strategies for responding to failure and by creating an environment where taking risks is welcomed and encouraged. Additionally, students must be taught skills for stamina and overcoming challenges. Grit truly matters in academic success!



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