Grit or Groan?

Grit London cc Flickr danxoneil

Grit London cc Flickr danxoneil

A “buzz word” in education of recent times has been the characteristic of “grit”. It’s the perseverance to keep going even when things don’t seem to be coming together the way we had envisaged. Defined as “firmness of character; indomitable spirit” 

I recently read Paul Tough’s  How Children Succeed where he sets out to illustrate the notion that non-cognitive skills, like persistence, self-control, curiosity, conscientiousness, grit and self-confidence, are more crucial than pure brainpower to achieving success.

Personally when I think of this characteristic it reminds me of my approach as a basketball player, “never giving in” even when the clock was running down and we were double digits behind. In my studies it was persisting when I thought it seemed like it was never going to come together. In family it was sticking to my guns in those moments with the kids when it would have been easier to cave and give them what they wanted to stop the tantrum! At work it is, my determined efforts to give my students opportunities that aren’t a “given” despite the obstacles in the way.

Let me qualify here. This is NOT about expecting kids to stick through days of irrelevant, dull content because they need to learn how to push through to achieve an end result. This is also not about “FAIL” first attempt in learning and all the other “failure” obsessions that seem to have evolved in education.  There are times when giving up is actually the best and most responsible option. There are times when we need to step back and make judgements as to whether it is actually worthwhile to persist with a challenge.

Paul Tough shares some key considerations as too does Angela Duckworth in her Tedtalk identifying characteristics of children and adults who succeed.  There is no doubt that success comes from being determined to complete challenges and persisting when things are difficult.  I think we must also acknowledge that to be committed, to see it through, it must be something we truly value. At the same time, not allowing that drive to blind us from making strategic and rational decisions will increase our chances of success and happiness….surely.


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