Building GRIT, Inspiring Our Students to Develop Resiliency

This is REPOSTED from my October Newsletter:

Dear Winchester High School Families,

Well it has been nearly a month since entering the halls of Winchester High School and the days are already flying by quickly.  In my time here as Interim Principal, I have been touched by the friendly faces of our students (many of which I knew from V-O and Lynch) as well as meeting many new students.  I have also felt very welcomed by the entire WHS community of staff.  I have seen first hand that Winchester High School is a great place.

And although I still have a lot to learn, I have already seen so much.  I have been witness to caring and talented educators who want the best for their students and I have seen adults who volunteer their time to attend sporting events and advise the many clubs we have here.  I have seen committed, passionate and involved students who really want to make a difference.

As parents and as educators, we want our students to feel success and always look for ways to build resiliency and coping skills when things don’t go well.  In my years as a school leader and an adjunct professor, I have been fascinated with the concept of building resiliency.  I have been following the work of Angela Duckworth, who is a psychologist who has been researching the concept of what she calls the ‘grit’ factor.  She has spent her career looking at champions who have achieved success and how they have built upon their successes.  She has found that the Grit Factor is a better indicator of success rather than concentrating on GPA or academic rank.  She speaks of a productive struggle that is so important in learning.  Dr. Duckworth also compiled a list that she calls the “Grit Scale” (http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~duckwort/images/12-item%20Grit%20Scale.05312011.pdf).  In the Scale, she asks students (or adults) to rate themselves on how they cope with challenges, what their work ethic is like and how they maintain their stamina.  Based on your score, you can rate yourself as extremely gritty or not at all gritty.  

So what does that mean for those of us that want to work with our teens about success and of course trying again (and again) when success is not achieved?  It means that we need to demonstrate the same models for our students.  We need to show them that as adults, we too need to keep trying at things as well as to develop a growth mindset.  Another psychologist, Carol Dweck has been researching the growth mindset model:

In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed

through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.

This is great news for those of us who work hard.  Yes, natural talent is important (and even if I wanted to be a world class athlete, I wouldn’t be successful no matter how hard I tried), but talent is only part of the equation.  Developing a love of learning and growing into success is part of being gritty.  I’ve always viewed myself as a gritty educator.  I have worked hard but more importantly, I have learned from my mistakes.  Let’s continue to model for our students that practice may not always make perfect but it will make progress.  

Works  Cited:

http://www.edutopia.org/blog/true-grit-measure-teach-success-vicki-davis

http://mindsetonline.com/whatisit/about/

http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~duckwort/images/12-item%20Grit%20Scale.05312011.pdf

http://www.ted.com/talks/angela_lee_duckworth_the_key_to_success_grit?language=en

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