It’s not enough to embrace the concept of a growth mindset. To get real results, you need to put that growth mindset into action, and that takes grit. We all know what grit is—that stick-to-it-ness even when the going gets tough. But not everyone has grit in big doses. Some folks are more ready to give up and accept the status quo than others. It turns out that one’s level of grit is an excellent indicator of success in prolonged and tough situations. The more gritty you are, the more likely your success—both in life as well as in education.
Grit Expert Angela Duckworth
The importance of grit has been revealed in a series of in-depth studies pioneered by Angela Duckworth who pursued the topic during her Ph.D. study at the University of Pennsylvania.
Angela describes her work and her findings in this excellent, informative, and short (6 minutes) TED talk she gave a couple of years ago. She also wrote the best-selling book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.
Angela found that grittiness was an excellent predictor of how folks fared in extended, challenging circumstances like entering West Point Military Academy, the National Spelling Bee, being a new teacher in a tough neighborhood, or even in marriage! The more grit you had, the more likely you were to see your way through.
She found that educational success—especially among at-risk students—was strongly correlated with grit even when standardized test scores, family income, and school safety were taken into account. Grittier kids proved successful.
How do you build grit in kids?
But when it comes to the question, “How do you build grit in kids?” Angela freely admits that she doesn’t have the answer.
However, she does think that one of the best approaches is teaching about and working to instill a growth mindset in your students. She says that kids with a growth mindset are “more likely to persevere when they fail because they don’t believe that failure is a permanent condition.” Instead, they believe that “the ability to learn is not fixed but can change with effort.”
And this is where we, as teachers come in. We have the task of introducing our students to the fact that their brain is malleable and can change when meeting new challenges. To teach students that their story is not “fixed” but can “grow,” and that achieving growth requires stamina in the form of prolonged dedication and effort, even in the face of short-term failures.
Basically, we must instill in them the belief in a growth mindset and the grit to see it through.
We should teach them that it is not raw talent that makes people ultimately successful, but rather grit. A high IQ won’t predict who best achieves their goals but, rather, grit. That grit is the day-in and day-out grind required to expand and grow in their interests, hobbies, and school studies. Success born from passion, grit, and love of learning will flow into and through the rest of their lives and careers.
It’s a big chore, certainly, but one well worth the effort. As Angela puts it, “We need to be gritty about getting our kids grittier.”
While perhaps no one has an exact formula for how to go about doing this, we probably each have some ideas.
I, for one, have been promoting a growth mindset for several years now. I’ve written blog posts about the topic. I’ve created a video for teachers about what we can do in our classrooms to help our students with their mindsets. And I have developed inspirational growth mindset collaboration posters for kids to work on together in their classrooms. But when I started reading up about grit, I realized that it was a missing—and essential—ingredient to making a growth mindset successful. Therefore, I wanted to find ways that we as teachers could use the idea of grit to help put the belief of a growth mindset into action.
Toward this end, I have developed a free resource that I hope may prove to be somewhat useful to you. There are two parts to it…
Grow with Grit Poster
Using the letters from GRIT, teach your students that they need to set Goals, have Resilience, approach their goals with Intention, and take Time to see improvement and success.
It’s so easy. All you have to do is download the freebie HERE. Print either the black and white or color option, whatever works best for you. Then cut out the pages and glue them together to make the poster. Hang it up in your classroom and use it to reinforce GRIT with your students.
Goals: Set goals to achieve your desired outcome and break down your larger goals into smaller, manageable sizes. Set daily, weekly and monthly goals to help stay on track towards the larger goal, but which are achievable. Take baby steps!
Resilience: Setbacks are going to happen, but resilience is being able to bounce back and continue on your path to reach your goals. Do not be afraid of failure, as failure is your teaching tool. Don’t let it break you down or keep you from reaching your goals. Keep trying!
Intention: Grit won’t happen by accident. You will need to mentally decide that you are going to persevere and work through hard times. So, set your “intention” to do what it takes to meet your goals!
Time: Grit is not about “one and done.” Grit is the day-in and day-out work that it takes to grow. Persist, and don’t give up!
Grow with Grit Pop Art Coloring Conversation Pages
Students often see famous, successful people and think they were just born that way and didn’t have to overcome obstacles. That is why students (and adults) are so fascinated by famous people who have had failures (oftentimes lots of them) along the way and yet worked through them to become successful. It turns out these “famous failures” were very gritty!
I’ve created a resource for teachers to use in your classroom that will help you talk to your students about grit and introduce them to some “famous failures.” I’ve included quotes from “gritty” people who have overcome difficult circumstances that ask students questions to get them thinking about their own grit. As background and introduction to more “famous failures,” some good web resources can be found here, here, and here).
Give students the “gritty people” handouts. Either let them choose one or have them do all three over a span of time. Students can work independently or you can also discuss each quote in detail as a class. I’ve included inventor Thomas Edison, baseball player Roberto Clemente, and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
Have students first respond to the quote by answering the “thinking” question. Then have them color their page. These would look great displayed on a bulletin board, hanging in the hallway, or added to any student portfolio or interactive notebook to remind them what hard work can do!
Download this FREEBIE HERE
Finally, I want to mention one necessary ingredient for grit, that is, passion.
I think it’s easy or easier to have grit when you are truly passionate about what you are doing. Often our students are being forced day-in and day-out to learn what someone else finds interesting or important for them. As Angela Duckworth says:
I don’t think people can become truly gritty and great at things they don’t love. So when we try to develop grit in kids, we also need to find and help them cultivate their passions. That’s as much a part of the equation here as the hard work and the persistence.
That is why it’s so important to involve students in their learning. There are many great ways to involve your students in their own learning and find what they are passionate about and what they love. Things you can do include:
- Create a student-centered classroom where visuals and artwork hanging on the walls are created by the kids in the classroom.
- Use project-based learning whenever possible—this hands-on approach will reach your students where they like to learn best—by doing!
- Have a choice-based classroom whenever possible. Set up learning stations where children can decide what they’d like to investigate and learn about.
- Have your students work collaboratively whenever applicable. When students work together, they learn how important they are as individuals and how important they are working together with a larger group. Being part of a group helps foster responsibility, dedication, and work ethic (you don’t want to let your other group members down).
I hope that you find some of the ideas and resources presented in this post to be useful to you and aid in helping your students learn how to grow with grit in your classroom and into their future!
I would love to see your students’ work if you decide to create any of my projects with them. Feel free to tag me (@artwithjennyk or #artwithjennyk) on social media so I can see what they make! You’ll find me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!
Thank you for reading and for all you do!