Saturday, March 21, 2015

Got Grit?

I was in on #satchat this morning; the topic was "grit," and developing grit in our students.

This is an on-going narrative in education today: we need to foster a little "grittiness" in our students. Helping them learn to persevere, persist, hang in there when it gets tough. Helping them develop gumption or stick-to-it-iveness. Helping them see that learning happens when you take risks, and fall flat on your face, and pick yourself up to try again.

That's admirable, isn't it? Who wouldn't want that kind of student?

It would take grit to move this huge pile of sand (grit?) with that shovel...
Image by Dan Slee [CC BY-NC 2.0]

And I think it's probably a reaction to things we perceive happening in the broader culture: we worry that the kids are getting a little soft these days. They don't have enough chores to do at home. They aren't pushed to achieve great things through hard work. Everyone gets a trophy for participating, regardless of the effort they put in.

In response to all that, we start to think, "Someone's got to do something! This is a generation of softies, and we're in trouble, because they are going to be the ones taking care of us someday!"

So let's get gritty. Let's get them working hard, sticking with it when it gets tough, creating a counter-cultural movement of high expectations for kids!

But I have a problem with this narrative.

It's not that I don't want kids to work hard, and to learn from missteps, and to stick with it when it's tough. I agree with that part. My problem is, what do you think of when you hear the word "grit?"

In the chat, I tweeted:
I had an immediate response from a fellow chatter:
And then another:
And still another:
I think the consensus was that we are glad to have the chat about this topic, but words matter.

"Grit" sounds abrasive.

"Grit" makes me think of...sandpaper.

"Grit" may be the current buzzword, but the idea is longstanding, right? I want students to develop perseverance, tenacity, persistence, gumption, stick-to-it-iveness, etc. But "grit?" That just sounds irritating.

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