The Culture of Grit

Grit is critical, and luckily, it is also pretty straightforward. What’s hard about it is how to hold those expectations consistent over time. Here's how you do it.

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 In order to create a culture of grit in your classroom, you can follow this strategy. Doing so helps students form accurate expectations about the role of effort and deliberate practice in achieving success.

If you really want to understand how to create a culture of grit in your classroom, we recommend two must-reads: Grit by Angela Duckworth and Mindset by Carol Dweck.

The first thing you have to do is acknowledge to students that acquiring valuable skills is hard work and that effort makes any skill that you have more productive. The message sounds something like: “In our classroom, we are engaged in hard work and we are going to make whatever skill we have productive.” This relies heavily on helping students accept the second step in the above image: “The kind of deliberate practice that produces skill is not fun, it is often confusing and we make mistakes.” But that is not the same as failure, because we won’t stop trying.

That leads to number three, to help students anticipate that hard emotions like frustration and confusion are normal. We're all dealing with this, whether we're adults or students. We need to set that expectation whether it's a kindergarten classroom, 1st grade, 5th grade or 8th grade. If you want to have a highly effective classroom, this needs to be an inherent part of the culture, part of the everyday basis on which class is founded. That in turn requires embracing a growth mindset.

That is why it’s so important to have gritty expectations of students in the first place. We have to develop a culture of grit in the classroom, because possessing grit is one of the greatest determinants of whether or not students will be successful. Francis Vigeant’s students (KnowAtom's founder) didn’t do test prep, but his students performed 40% over the state average because that's the level they were operating at consistently. That’s because the class was harder than the test. It wasn’t harder because it required constant drilling, but because they actually had to think day in and day out.

As the writer of this letter points out, they had to get confused. They had to do things that were tedious and sometimes boring. There were days that he had to just really push through. None of that was accidental. If students don’t have to push through anything, then they run the risk of becoming a “fragile perfect” and developing a skewed concept of reality, a perception where if things don’t come easily aka "naturally" then they aren’t worth doing at all.

“Growing up, I wanted to be an inventor, solving problems that would help people have better lives. Every day at KnowAtom is an opportunity to invent solutions that give thousands of students and teachers a better experience doing science, engineering, technology, and math (STEM). Providing educators with professional satisfaction and students with the opportunity to understand the world we live in is my way of helping people have better lives.”