Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been reading Grit, by Angela Duckworth (@angeladuckw for all you Twitter fans!). If you haven’t checked this book out, I highly recommend it. It’s a fantastic book that has different theories on motivation and why people strive to become better for society. Further, she defines grit as people who overcome adversities to get better. It’s ”the combination of passion and perseverance” that leads to people having grit.
As I was reading part of the book a question came to mind, how can we develop grit in our students? I found a few interesting facts that Duckworth expresses. One such concept is the reiteration of the importance of building relationships with our students. It is our responsibility to identify interests and help our students develop skills related to their interests. By no means do I mean we should only teach to their interests, but we should be open to them using their interests to show content knowledge. For example, if students need to show that they conducted research on a given topic, maybe they could express their research in their own way (like writing a song, creating a website or blog, making a video…) instead of always writing an essay. If we can allow them to be creative with their education (and build it around their interests), it will help drive their motivation and develop their “grit” for challenges they may encounter with their learning experiences.
As a teacher, sometimes I get caught up with data and student achievement. With all the data that drives some of our instruction, it is easy to forget that we are working with children and not adults. This leads to another concept that I feel is worth mentioning… kids figure out their interest by playing. Maybe we need to play with our children more to figure out their interests and have these be more of a contributing factor in their education. With this stated, we also need to do our best to teach our students content that they will be tested on. I know what you’re thinking, how can we play with our students and not focus solely on the data? We need to remember that although data is important, it’s only a snapshot of student knowledge, and it does fluctuate.
Finally, students need constructive feedback during the learning process. The quicker the feedback the better. While doing this, we need to remember to encourage them along the way. I know it’s hard for me to hear constructive feedback and not let it ruin my day. If we don’t give them feedback on failures, guiding them to learn from their mistakes, students may not learn to the their true potential. Students need to be encouraged to persevere through their challenges in life and not give up. They need to know we have their back especially when they make mistakes. Thank goodness I have a patient wife because I make MANY mistakes every day. I know it’s hard for me to hear constructive feedback and not let it ruin my day. With a positive attitude and a respectful learning community, the sky's the limit in what our students can achieve. After all it’s all about the kids!