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Can You Help? Looking For Stories Of People Learning Self-Control Or Grit From Challenging Circumstances


Regular readers know I’m a big believer in teaching Social Emotional Learning (see The Best Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Resources) and that I also have a healthy skepticism of how it’s sometimes used (see The manipulation of Social Emotional Learning).

Readers also know that I have a particular interest in focusing on the assets students bring to the table rather than their deficits (see Get Organized Around Assets and A Lesson Highlighting Community Assets — Not Deficits).

I’m preparing a new lesson that I’m going to try-out in the fall, and student assets are going to be a key part of it. Of course, I’ll be writing more about it…

I’m looking for stories of students/adults sharing particular instances when growing-up in challenging circumstances helped them develop grit (perseverance) and/or self-control.

These could be passages from books, articles,movies, videos, stories your own students have written, etc.

Any ideas?

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. I wrote recently about a couple former students who showed tremendous resilience, upon the death of a parent. My focus was on the assumptions we sometimes make about our students, but the stories fit your theme:

    I also just listed to Daniel Pink’s latest Office Hours podcast with Adam Grant. Adam spoke about when people keep pressing on long past the point that they should. “Sunk costs are the dark side of grit,” he said.

    I think talking about how we could invest time down the wrong path and convince ourselves that we can’t go back might be a good way to add some good context to the discussion.

  2. Hi Larry, I have been teaching internationally for over 15 years. Although I feel I have always been passionate about teaching and learning, a near death experience while teaching in Cambodia not only challenged me physically and mentally to overcome some serious challenges, it helped me to understand that being a teacher was my calling. Through deep reflection, I have taken charge of my own learning and haven’t looked back since. My personal story can be found here. Thanks for allowing me to share Larry.

    Kind regards,

    Andy Vasily

  3. When I subbed ELA as a new teacher three years ago for a middle school in Escondido, CA, I saved two “I am from…” poems due to their heart-wrenching content. I will reserve the 8th grade authors’ names, and as I did not teach high school in the area, I unfortunately don’t know what happened to these students. I hope life deals them a good hand.

    Poem #1
    This poem is about where I’m from
    Honestly, I think it’s kind of dumb
    I’m from the Hidden City
    Where we show no pitty
    In my streets I creep
    while I see people weep
    At the cost
    of the sons that were lost
    It’s the battle of the streets
    when you try to defeat
    The weak side of town
    while they’re down
    You will clown on the weak
    As they tremble in defeat

    #2 Poem
    I am from where graffiti is an art
    Where disrespect is an issue
    Where I am from children are not able
    to play after dark
    Where I am from a game of soccer
    is never for fun
    Family dinners on Saturday and
    Church on Sundays
    I am from where silence is unusual
    And memories of drawing
    Where I am from, love is never shown

  4. Hi. One of our local magazines always spotlights a few of our amazing seniors who have faced tremendous obstacles and persevered. This year’s stories were especially incredible, so I wanted to share:
    Thanks, and good luck with this project!

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