Teaching grit can be a tricky topic for discussion. First of all, should teachers be fostering students’ characters? Personally, I think we must. In order to nurture well-rounded, positively functioning children in our classrooms, educators need to maintain consistent, developmentally appropriate expectations. In my opinion, teaching students to be respectful, compassionate, polite, and patient is a large part of our job. Showing passion for achievement of a goal, determination, and perseverance, are all foundational qualities of grit.
In our current “instant gratification” society, many of us seem to be lacking those qualities. Kids are often likely to give up if things don’t come easily, or they can’t get something right the first time. As with any character trait that’s malleable, I believe we can teach kids to be “grittier.” At least we can share a toolbox of skills from which they can choose to build their capacity for perseverance when things get hard. It’s ultimately up to each child how much he or she would like to grow.
Before conducting my research, I intuitively thought that fifth grade was the perfect age in which to introduce grit. After having done some reading, I found it’s true. Ten and eleven year olds are meta-cognitively at an appropriate point in their lives (able to think about their own thinking), before the hormones kick in, to really stop and think about what’s going through their minds. They have the capacity to pause, assess a situation, look at it realistically, and then make a plan for how to proceed. These skills are part of the nitty-gritty pieces of grit. If a child can stop and figure out why she is upset, frustrated, or wants to give up, she will have a much easier time of choosing a strategy for how to deal with a difficult situation.
My curriculum incorporates ten monthly lessons that scaffold upon each other to build perseverance, the foundation of grit. The first four lessons are based on Martin Seligman’s work and are about optimism. The next three entail goal-setting and learning strategies to practice and exhibit self-control. The final three are all about perseverance. Students are asked to find a “gritty” adult, conduct an interview, and then share the person’s story with the class in a storyboard fashion. Finally, students are asked to showcase an achieved goal at the end of the year so everyone can celebrate the qualities of grit needed to be successful in the endeavor. I will not lie. The curriculum is dense and takes awhile to prepare for delivering instruction to a classroom of students.
At this point, I am open for ideas about sharing the grit curriculum while incorporating some training. If you are interested in contacting me for further information, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Potential Services Offered by Amy Lyon include:
Half-day grit workshop
Full day grit workshop
Explanation, and sharing of yearlong fifth grade grit curriculum with training for how to deliver it
Additional support offered three times during the year:
Initial set-up and introduction of curriculum as well as the optimism section; midway through the year for the self-control portion; and towards the end of the year for the perseverance section