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Hitting the gritty wall…

So I shared with my student teacher’s mentor that I’m working on grit and self advocacy in the classroom. I found these lovely videos that talk about grit and self advocacy. You can see them below (skip on past these videos if you already know the concepts…).

This was my whole lesson. Telling them that I was going to be serious about grades. Serious about deadlines. Serious about learning. I was going to make them into responsible students even if it killed me.

What is grit? Tell your neighbor!


What did the students want to tell their teachers?Tell a partner!

And then Suzy, my partner teacher from years and years Suzy, tells me that grit is crap.

That’s not what I want to hear just after I deliver this lesson. She sent me this article, which brings the idea of trauma into the mix. The writer talks about seeing a talk by Tyrone C. Howard in which he brings up the challenges facing students in a world where grit and resiliency have become buzz words but few are facing the issues keeping students from being successful. (You can see a video of part of that talk below. And the slides to go with it here: 2015-11-11-motivation-howard)


Among the most salient quotes:

“We are asking students to change a belief system without changing the situation around them,” he said. It can be irresponsible and unfair to talk about grit without talking about structural challenges, he said, referring to the recent interest in interventions tied to the concepts of grit and perseverance.


My students are facing myriad challenges. According to the article, Howard says in an average U.S. classroom, one can assume this:

  • 7 out of 30 live in poverty;
  • 11 out of 30 are non-white;
  • 6 out of 30 do not speak English as a first language;
  • 6 out of 30 are not reared by their biological parents;
  • 1 out of 30 are homeless;
  • 6 out of 30 are victims of physical, sexual, verbal or emotional abuse before turning 18.

Of these, all of my students fall into the first three categories. Some of them fall into the fourth. As far as I know, none are homeless. At least not right now. And I don’t know, though I have my suspicions that most fall into the last one.

And yes.

I know.

But I’ve gotta try, right?


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