Great works are performed, not by strength, but by perseverance.
~Samuel Johnson

A public school education is probably the single experience that most Americans share.  Even if you didn’t attend a public school, chances are pretty good that the structure of your school was similar to that of a public school.  Based on that experience, we all have an opinion on how teachers teach and how students should learn.  However, there is a new body of research emerging that suggests our traditional beliefs about intelligence are changing.  This new knowledge argues that a growth-based mindset and a focus on hard work and resilience outweighs “smarts.”  The popular word for the ability to work hard and manage setbacks is “grit.” As a district, our Community Review Committee (CRC) is studying these ideas and will make recommendations on this topic to the Board of Education at their May meeting.

At HMS and WJHS, we have been working on making our kids “gritty” for years.  We have taken a “training wheels” approach, and we realize that grittiness requires multiple experiences that force us to be resilient.  As kids enter HMS, they are exposed to a variety of teachers and academic experiences that force them to be organized and begin advocating for themselves.  Our kids are setting academic goals and monitoring their progress.  As they advance to sixth grade, they they discover new organizational systems and ways to juggle academics and extracurricular experiences.  At the junior high, kids not only learn to navigate high-level academics and extracurricular experiences, but learn the ins and outs of different social situations.  By the second semester of eighth grade, we expect that our kids self-advocate, problem-solve, successfully navigate social situations, and have the executive functioning skills to be successful in high school.

As parents, one of the hardest things we can do is allow our kids to make mistakes and figure out how to fix their problems.  Taking reasonable risks and learning to pick yourself up when you’re down is a skill.  Teaching them to be gritty when they’re young is the greatest gift we can give our kids.  As a parent, I often have to resist the natural urge to swoop in and solve my kids’ problems.  While I am always available to give advice (I give the best advice around), I refuse to get overly involved in their problems. As the school year draws to a close in the next couple of months, I encourage you to look for opportunities to facilitate grittiness in your child.

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2 comments on “Nitty GRITTY
  1. Cheryl Moran says:

    This is interesting. Do you have any specific research on growth-based mindset outweighing “smarts” that I might read? I can do my own search but if you know of specific research I would love the references.

  2. David says:

    Hi Cheryl,

    The grandmother of the new intelligence is Carol Dweck with her book Mindset. However, If you should also check out the work of Angela Duckworth and Paul Tough. Our 5-8 teachers have all read Mindset and many of our teachers follow Duckworth and have ready Tough’s book.

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