Teaching At Its Best
Starting the School Year Gritty

Starting the School Year Gritty


Let's face it teachers are gritty people. From completing a credential program to pursuing advanced degrees, it takes grit. If you consider the number of people in the United States with a Bachelor's and Master's degree, teachers have a whole lot of grit going on in the teaching profession. Less than half of all Americans in the United States hold a bachelor's degree, and about one-fifth have a master's. All states require a bachelor's degree to teach, and in many states, a master's degree is required.

Teachers, like me, know summertime is more than just relaxing with friends; it's taking classes for recertification, salary advancement, and professional staff development. Many teachers teach summer school, tutor, and coach while school is on summer break to boost their income. Grit is not just about the completion of your credential program; it's about the new and unexpected challenges that life brings.

As gritty as we are, teaching our students about grit can be a challenging task. After all, it takes a lot of grit to have patience and compassion for a kid who would rather interrupt instruction than learn a new concept.

Here are my six simple steps to get gritty with your students:
1. Teach your students about grit, by letting them experience grit; define grit and identify grit in their lives from role models to personal experiences.  Don't assume that students know what grit is, or that experiencing grit in their lives can build stamina, perseverance and mental toughness! Give them an opportunity to think, apply and share their funds of knowledge around grit.

2. Start your year off with a gritty experience that will foster teamwork, collaboration, and a gritty learning task. Consider having your kids build a spaghetti tower from marshmallows and pasta, or take the egg drop challenge. Each of these experiences teaches kids about failure as part of the learning process. It's not about whether or not they have success, but what they experienced throughout the process. If you are a PE teacher, this might include a non-sport related activity such as going into crow pose for one minute. The point is to build stamina and experience failure. After the task, have students reflect, debrief, and think about where they had to persevere.
The marshmallow and pasta challenge

3. Inspire getting gritty with it!  Motivational videos inspire me, and will likely inspire your students too! From, Will Smith, talking about the importance of failure to kid athletes who continue to push their limits. Check out this Padlet I created with a collection of videos that demonstrate grit in the real world.

4. Have your students assess their grit and reflect on their progress. Growth happens when we not only experience a challenging task but look back on the experience and consider what we learned and how it changed our thinking. Have your kiddos take the Grit Survey at the beginning of the school year, by Angela Ducksworth, and set goals that they can monitor and reflect upon throughout the school year.

5. Provide an opportunity for students to explore their interests and  develop a passion for something.  A true test of grit is when we persevere when faced with a challenging task.  If students are passionate about something they will work hard, practice and not give up this is how they experience grit as something they can control.  Research by Angela Ducksworth found that kids who are gritty about one thing are most likely to translate that grit into other experiences (think about Michael Jordan who was dropped from his high school basketball team and continued to reach stardom in not just basketball but golf and coaching).  

6. Build gritty partnerships with parents at the beginning of the school year. We all know that our students' first teacher is their parent, so don't be afraid to share with parents what you are doing in the class to foster grit and what strategies they can incorporate at home to sustain grit. This might include creating structured routines to support students in practice and completion of tasks, to not letting kids give up, or helping them too much before they had a chance to struggle. 

Grit is the mental stamina students acquire through experiences, life lessons, and the choices they make. Notice the operative word here is "they," so let your students fail, learn, grow, be passionate, and get gritty! 

Learn more about Grit, and take my course, Fostering Grit In The Classroom, and check out my podcast, Grit in the Classroom: Dr. Dickenson. Share your thoughts in our Facebook Group Teacher PrepTech!

THI instructor, Dr. Patricia Dickenson, wrote this guest post. 
Dr. Patricia Dickenson is an Associate Professor of Teacher Education, the Program Lead for the Bachelor of Arts In Interdisciplinary Studies with the Preliminary Multiple and Single Subject Credential. She is the Course Lead for several Courses at National University, and her research focuses on mathematics, professional development, and technology.  Dr. Dickenson has published two books. 

For more information and to view courses offered by Dr. Dickenson, visit our website at www.hol.edu.



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