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Building Independent Learners by Fostering Grit

Grrrrrr. Teeth gnashed. Eyes focus. Grit.

Imagery of football players and Olympic athletes who put all they have into their performances.

Day in and day out of practices and a real sense of commitment to their sports permeate their beings. It's beyond talent; it's passion.

Academic grit may conjure different images, but the amount of work it takes to develop the tenacity to be great at anything is substantial. And it is sadly lacking in many of our 21st-century learners.

Perhaps things have come to easily. Perhaps they are all used to getting trophies for participation. Perhaps they don't see the value in putting in the effort.

Whatever the reason, it's a teacher's job, a school's job, a family's job to help develop children who can hack it in a world that won't be as forgiving.

So how can teachers contribute to this important lesson? Check out these possibilities:

  • Students need opportunities to try and fail without anyone fixing it for them. It's okay to let them struggle. Know your students. Know how hard to push and when to lend a hand without enabling them.

  • Model the behaviors you want students to emulate. Be willing to take risks and fail in front of students and then model how to pick yourself up and dust yourself off and try again.

  • Remind students that grit is not an innate ability, it is the heart of what it means to practice and persevere. Grit takes work. Remind them not to be afraid of work.

  • Learn with intention. Students shouldn't want to develop grit just to get better grades, they should want to develop it because it will make them successful people. Great working habits develop strength of mind and character and that is more important extrinsic motivation.

  • Coach kids through hard times, don't do it for them. Regardless of how challenging a task is, never allow a student to quit. Remind them that there is no time limit on success and that it is in their best interest to push through the challenge. There is no accomplishment greater.

We all have difficulties we will face in life. School is usually a microcosm of those experiences. If students can achieve their goals even in the hardest times while in school, it is usually a precursor of things to come.

What will you do today to foster grit for success in your students? Please share

*This post originally ran on my Education Week blog Work in Progress in January of 2015. It has been modified.

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