Monday, October 14, 2013

Teachers: Feeling "Gritty" Yet?

All the research is out, and it looks like our students need to learn to get some "grit". I was talking to my almost 93 year old grandfather about this at our weekly Saturday morning breakfast. When I told him about teachers needing to teach "grit", he looked at me a bit puzzled, and said, "What did you need some grits." LOL! That was too funny. To someone who survived the Great Depression, World War II, and growing up poor on a farm the thought of teaching kids perseverance seems a little absurd.

However, these are different times, more complex in a way, I guess. There are so many possible distractions, that it can be difficult to stay on any one task long enough to really achieve success. Children today continue to deal with poverty, but instead of eating fresh vegetables off the farm like my grandfather did, many eat processed junk. Instead of doing farm chores to get out of their parents' hair, children are given Iphones, Ipads, or game systems. We, as adults, also model these distracting behaviors. We escape into our own little worlds with our technologies. I'm the first to admit my own guilt. But, I know that this kind of behavior sets a terrible example. So, how do we escape our own laziness, and just get the job done?

The following commercial is funny, because it is so true!


Angela Duckworth, the deliverer of the TED Talk on grit, claims that students need grit and perseverance to achieve. They need to be able to sustain a strong work ethic over long periods of time to become successful. However, when asked how teachers go about teaching this, Duckworth had no clear answer except to say that we, as teachers, must model grit ourselves.


So, what do this mean exactly? In my opinion, it means that we all, as teachers seeking excellence, need to get a little "grittier".

1. Vision-- We need one. My vision is for all of my students to walk away from my classroom challenged in reading and writing through the use of the Common Core Standards. My goal is to accomplish individual instruction as much as possible, and for my students to pass the end of the year tests. My vision is to have a happy classroom, where my students are treated as individuals and respected as such. I want my highest student and my lowest student to walk away from my class having been challenged and pushed to the limit- but in a good way.

2. Communicate- I will communicate that vision to my students daily, reminding them of where we are headed and why it is important. I will be straight forward and truthful-- kids actually like that-- about what was good or not good about their work. I will communicate how they can achieve by taking certain steps, but how they will fail by taking the wrong ones.

I will also communicate more with fellow educators that share a common vision. I will not worry about fitting into a certain culture, but be myself, and make decisions as such. I will keep myself separated from people who might cause harm to my ability to persevere knowing that as a first year teacher I am still vulnerable.

3. Keep My Word-- I believe part of perseverance is sticking to my word. If I tell my students I will make something happen, then it is going to happen. No false promises. I don't feel that I have done this, but this is a reminder to myself not to let that happen.

4. Set Standards and Keep Them High-- I believe part of the reason students must learn about perseverance and grit in school today is because they can't find many examples of others persevering in their own lives. As a society, the institution of marriage is falling apart, and that alone is a big problem. I must demonstrate strong moral values in all ways-- how I dress, speak to others, treat those around me and my family. If I don't set the example, then why should they bother. As teachers, this is a high calling, but they are looking toward us, when they can't find it in their own parents.

There are many pressures today in education, and maybe it is too much to ask teachers to teach grit or perseverance, but honestly, I believe that teachers have been setting this type of example for generations. Really, this may just serve as a wake up call to all of us, as a society, that maybe we just need to stop whining, get off our Iphones, and just get the job done. Let's get gritty!

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