Grit is basically working hard, staying committed to goals, and working through struggles and failures. As a teacher in high school, this is not an easy one to foster in our current system. Why? Because failure is not viewed as learning culturally in traditional education. When a kid fails, alarms go off everywhere. Parents call me, counselors call me, kids come to me in a panic. Our traditional system the facade that if a high school kid fails at something, their whole future is gone. The student will never get into that great college their parents dreamed they would be in. Counselors feel the pressure of not having a “successful” student GPA or SAT score.
So how do we change this? There are a few things that can be integrated into the educational system in order to facilitate the growth of grit.
Students need time to find something they are interested in and school’s should build engaging activities around that interest. Schools can foster this by teaching kids to go for their interests. Using student motivation on any individual idea or passion can help schools teach them improvement does not come without effort.
Schools need to support the culture that the struggle is real… and part of learning. When frustration and confusion happens in a school, typically a traditional administration will bend when a parent or student complains. The struggle is eased by accommodations. This culture of the coddle is not helping anyone. It teaches our students that no one should struggle or be uncomfortable. And that is exactly the opposite of learning.
Schools should accommodate risk taking. I see the traditional system lawyers ears perking up here. I can hear my district lawyer saying “What!? Wait a minute!” Schools should facilitate students getting out of their comfort zones and struggling a big by taking a risk. Schools need to celebrate the risk even if it failed and teach students they are still here and present after a failure.
Finally, schools, parents, and communities need to get out of the mindset that failure is final. The old “my kid has ruined their whole future with an F in this class” attitude is absolutely false. By believing that failure is final, students learn that risking it is not worth it. Students learn to abide by what the teacher is preaching. They conform to traditional ways of thought. Students learn not to try new things in order to avoid “ruining their lives.” Failure needs to be taught in a way that it is not the end. We need to accept that failure happens at every level and encourage people to take the opportunity from it.
Learning is painful. Learning hurts. Learning is a constant struggle. Schools need to disrupt the traditional mindsets and teach students how to attain more grit.