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Good Advice On NPR About “Grit”: “Take A Step Back & Chill”

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Boy, the concept of “grit” is everywhere these days, particularly with the publicity around Angela Duckworth’s new bestselling book on the topic.

I’ve been critical of the use by many to apply grit and other Social Emotional Learning ideas as a “Let Them Eat Character” strategy to short-circuit genuinely effective social and economic policies that our schools, students and families need (see The manipulation of Social Emotional Learning).

And others sincerely just oversell it using the much over-used phrase of it being a “transforming” strategy.

I’m a big supporter of Social Emotional Learning (The Best Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Resources), and believe that it has an important place in the classroom.

I also believe that it has to be kept in its place.

Yesterday, NPR published an important contribution to this on-going debate (I couldn’t post anything earlier because I was on our annual insane twenty-hour field trip to San Francisco with seventy students). Their story is headlined MacArthur ‘Genius’ Angela Duckworth Responds To A New Critique Of Grit.

In it, Angela Duckworth responds to a recent study critical of some of her grit research, and, to her credit, actually agrees with a fair amount of it. I’m not so sure of her protestation that “she never tried to oversell her findings,” though.

I love this excerpt from the piece:

Grit-has-been-on-NPR

When it comes to grit, many of our students have shown and continue to show as much, if not more, grit than many of us teachers have demonstrated – just in situations outside of the classroom. I think our challenge is to make our classes into places where students want to show that trait there, and to help them see that it’s in their self-interest to do so.

In addition, we’ve got to also not teach a mindless sense of “Stick–to–itiveness” at all costs. We need to help them develop a sophisticated decision-making progress so that they know when it’s appropriate to change directions (see New Study: With Grit, You Need To “Know When To Fold ‘Em”).

Grit, like all the other Social Emotional Learning skills, are important items in a teacher’s toolbox.

Researchers may argue about how important but, I believe, taught with lots of caveats, I think it’s worthwhile.

It’s just always good to remember that there are no panaceas in education.

I’m adding this post to The Best Resources For Learning About “Grit.”

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

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

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