Grit and Growth Mindset…Necessities!

The other day a teacher walked into my office with some questions about student learning goals.  He wanted to teach his students “grit” and find a way to measure their growth.  I have to be honest, this was one of the most exciting educational conversations I’ve had this year.  When he left my office I was off and running on an uncontrollable urge to re-read all of the grit articles I had bookmarked and re-watch all of the related videos…it’s just too inspiring!

If you’re unfamiliar with the character strength called “grit”, then I strongly urge you to stop right now and watch this TED talk by Angela Duckworth, it is only 6:09 long and not shockingly has only 7.3 Million views…more people need to see this!!

For those of you who are in that 7 million plus viewer group, you’re already a convert…I’m sure of it!  The idea of “grit” and the data coming out of the research is just too impactful to ignore.  However, as Duckworth points out, there’s a problem…we (humans) still aren’t 100% sure of how to teach grit.  In her TED Talk, Duckworth points out that Carol Dweck’s concept of the growth-mindset is likely the best available theory for approaching the teaching/learning of grit.  If you’re not familiar with Carol Dweck and Growth Mindset then…stop and watch this now!  

Growth Mindset is something that is so crucial to success that it just can’t be ignored.  There are, of course, very successful people who’ve never learned a Growth Mindset but there is just too much evidence that shows how having a Growth Mindset and believing in “the power of yet” can change someone’s life.  

The implications for “grit” and Growth Mindset for educators (and parents) are astronomical.  It may require slowing down a bit in class, taking time to help students “relearn” material, or adjusting our practice as educators.  Rick Wormeli, a former Disney Teacher of the year and one of the first Nationally Certified Teachers in the USA, speaks about the implications of the Growth Mindset for our classrooms.  This video is an absolute must watch for all educators, no question about it!  No matter if you’ve seen this video before or not, please watch it and contemplate the implications for your classroom.  

Our role as educators is extremely important.  The tasks we are charged with are many but the most important of all is the future success of our students.  “Grit” and Growth Mindset are two of the factors that research has shown to dictate success in life; how do these two things fit into your classroom?

Growth Mindset and EAL Students

I’m writing a little earlier than normal this week because I’m away tomorrow (Friday) as I’ll be attending the SIS EAL Conference at Shekou International School.  It is being coordinated, in part, by a friend of mine from my time in Italy and the keynote speaker is EAL guru Dr. Virginia Rojas.  This conference has produced nothing but rave reviews in the past (some of you have been fortunate enough to attend) and I expect nothing less from this weekend!

Ever since I began in education I’ve been working with EAL populations.  My first classes in America were, in fact, comprised almost entirely of students who spoke a language other than English while at home.  I guess you could say that I don’t really have an understanding of what it would be like to teach a non-EAL population; I actually hadn’t come to that realization until just now!  When I think about all of the EAL students I’ve had over the years I’m always amazed at how fast these students can grow and excel in English and, usually, they do it in an incredibly short amount of time.  We’ve certainly seen this happen time and again at our school, take a second to think about all the incredible students you’ve encountered…in some cases it’s awe-inspiring to consider what they’ve achieved.

For many of these students, whether they know it or not, it’s the Growth Mindset that allows them to be so successful.  They know that with hard work, practice, risk taking and a decent amount of failure they will be able to learn English.  Interestingly enough, I don’t think many of these kids even realize what they are doing; this is just how they live their life.  On the other end of the spectrum are the kids who have seemingly given up and don’t put in the effort.  Last year we looked at Carol Dweck’s work in Mindset, a book I’ve gone back to a few times to re-read.  At one point Dweck discusses “Students Who Don’t Care”, she does doesn’t believe that this is really possible.  Before she launches into a discussion about Growth-Minded Teachers (a group we should all aspire to join) she says about these particular students, “It’s common for students to turn off to school and adopt an air of indifference, but we make a mistake if we think any student stops caring.”

Almost every single student at our school who is seemingly “turned off to school” is an EAL student.  Perhaps there’s causation perhaps not, but there is no denying that there is a correlation.  Take some time to think about those kids who seem “turned off” in your class and consider them in a different light for a moment.  Is there something that you could do to encourage them to turn back on?

I’ll leave you with that for now.  You all know me well enough to realize that I’m going to be coming at you fast and furious with EAL strategies and ideas next week 🙂  Enjoy your Friday and the weekend…get outside, it’s supposed to be a BEAUTIFUL weekend!!  Don’t forget that Jerry Rice is still in town, in case you didn’t get enough at Wednesday’s assembly.