“Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”-Angela Lee Duckworth
There is a word going around in education circles these days: grit. Research by Angela Lee Duckworth shows that it’s one of the most important factors in determining success in many contexts, including students’ education. So, what is grit? In her TED Talk, Duckworth describes grit as “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.” According to her research, grit is even more important than IQ for success. So, if grit is so important, how do we teach kids to have it? One suggestion Duckworth makes is based on the idea of growth mindset. Many people have the idea that what you’re born with is what you get. They might think some people are just not good at math or sports or whatever. While there’s truth in the idea of natural talent and people having strengths in certain areas, the belief that learning and improvement is not possible just leads to giving up. As students are exposed to the idea that our brains change and grow as we learn and have new experiences, they begin to believe that failure is not permanent. They develop grit. They recognize that difficult does not equal impossible, and they are more willing to try. And the more they try and work hard, the more success they will have.
So, how do I want to model this in my classroom?
1) Talk about growth mindset.
2) Talk about mistakes and how we can learn from them. Mistakes are not failures. They are opportunities for learning and future success.
3) Don’t freak out about my mistakes. If I’m too hard on myself, the kids will notice and see that I’m not practicing what I preach.
4) Build time and space in the classroom for experimenting and redoing and learning things at different paces. This can be really hard when there’s so much information to cover and so little time, but I really want to try to recognize learner differences and provide opportunities for developing grit.
Helping students to develop grit will help prepare them for their futures. They will carry that with them into all facets of their lives: education, emotions, jobs, relationships, families, changing the world. I hope at the very least I can plant the seed in each student that they are capable of facing challenges and rising above. What about you? Got grit?