By Samantha Bennett
I have three teenage boys who are absolutely positive they are enchanted gifts to the planet – mostly because I’ve told them that they are (nearly) every day for the past 17 years.
Here is the ultimate power of grit for me right now. Now that my boys are teenagers, telling me in words and actions how ridiculous and boring and stupid I am on a minute-by-minute basis, GRIT prevents me from jumping on an airplane to Paris, by myself, TODAY. I know people do it – I’ve read the stories and always clucked my tongue. “Oh, how selfish! She must have been in the middle of a serious breakdown. Poor woman.” Now I get it. I really could do it. TODAY. Right now. Maybe. For sure, if I could take my dog.
Being the mother of three teenagers takes some grit. I hear a constant choir of voices in my head, “It is too difficult. I’m too miserable. I’m too scared. My children are jerks and they are all my fault.” Then I come back to my senses and tell myself, “Be a better grownup. Get some grit.”
What does it mean to be a gritty grown up? Where are all the gritty grown ups?
Here is a different version of the “Mom takes off to Paris” tale. Just yesterday I heard the story of a Principal who received notice that his contract would not be renewed for the following school year. The teachers arrived at school the next morning and saw (unusually) that the Principal’s door was open. Then, they also noticed that it was cleaned out. Nothing on the walls, or the shelves, or the desk. He had packed up his office in the dead of night and just left. No goodbye to kids. No closure with the staff. He…just… left. What? Who does that? A BAD GROWNUP. That’s who.
What is a BAD grownup? We all have our pet peeves, but to me, the worst kind of grownup is the hypocrite. How can we help kids be better humans every day when all around us grownups are acting like jerks? Running away when they make a mistake or are faced with a challenge that seems impossible? Operating from fear instead of joy? Using excuses of “THEY told me to,” instead of being intentional with their time and energy? I’m really not asking for the moon – I just want to surround kids with people who ATTEMPT to be better grownups on a daily basis. I want schools to be filled with the kind of grownups that don’t give up – on kids, or on schools, or on their colleagues, or on themselves. We need schools that are filled with grittier grownups.
Three Ways to Be a Grittier Grownup in the Classroom
As a teacher, no matter what else is swirling around, you CAN control how you show students that you are a gritty grownup in your classroom everyday. To model grit in the classroom, teachers should:
- Create assignments that stretch over time. If a task is an isolated “one time” thing, how will it stick? If you can finish a task or an assignment in one class period, how gritty do you need to be?
- Create assignments that have an audience beyond the classroom. If an assignment is “just” for the eyes and brain of my teacher, how can it ever make a difference in the world? How can I ever see my own impact on a variety of readers and thinkers? How can I trust myself to become a creator instead of just a consumer if I never get to make anything that really matters or that the world needs?
- Give careful attention to the things students make and the things students say. Get more feedback FROM them to decide exactly what kind of feedback they might need from you to grow. Talk to them one-on-one – on paper and in person to help them articulate what they are figuring out and what they need next.
It just so happens that these same behaviors also help students develop habits of grit so they become the kind of people that tackle big challenges and don’t run away when things get tough or uncomfortable.
What kind of grownup are you? What kind of grownup do you aspire to be? If I look at the verbs in the three suggestions above I see create, create, and give. Those are verbs that can help me get grittier, and verbs that will help me take positive action when I feel like escaping to Paris. Instead of running from, I’ll dive into – create, create, and give. Create, create and give. Ok, I’ll stay. I hope you will too. Kids need more gritty adults.