Thursday, 1 May 2014

The 'Grit' Factor

I read a fabulous article sent to me by Murray Blandford, a senior teacher here at Wellesley.  Have a read as it is a beauty! (Resilience: A Lesson From Sochi by Sydney Finkelstein)

The bolded sentence stood out for me: ‘The complacent and the arrogant do not accept personal responsibility. For them, failure is someone else’s fault.’

We subscribe to a magazine, ‘Teachers Matter’(1)  and I was delighted to read three articles based around the theme of promoting resilience in children. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see what is so obvious. Hard work pays off. Michael Grose in his article entitled, “True Grit” (p23) asks the question, ‘Talent or persistence? Which would you chose for your child?’ Most parents when asked this question opt for talent. 
Grose’s conclusion is that ‘in the long run conscientiousness serves a young person well when it is their default position because when the stakes are high, and they really need to work hard, they will automatically make the right choice.’ 

Thomas L Friedman said, “I live by the motto that PQ + CQ is always greater than IQ. You give me a kid with a high PQ, persistence and passion quotient, and a high CQ, a high curiosity quotient, and I’ll take them over the kid with the high IQ, intelligence quotient…In a world where all these tools are out there now for everybody, the big divide in the world is not going to be the digital divide, it’s going to be the motivational divide”

So how do you promote the traits of ‘true grit’ into our children without stealing their childhood or promoting a life of ‘hard grind’.   Grose  encourages parents to actively promote grit and persistence in children by making character part of the family’s brand.  Parents “…. can focus on character in conversations. They can share experiences where character has paid off for them in their lives.” In short, the values and language around persistence should be part and parcel of the family’s conversations.  Clearly parents would need to model such values.

 Robyn Pearce (Why Kids Need To be Resilience Proofed )2 magazine argues that from an early age let children feel the consequences of their actions. If children fail to complete a task around home or work at school and they have the time and intellectual capacity to achieve the task, insist that it is completed before any ‘goodies’ are provided.  She also argues that parents should link pocket money to tasks. I tend to agree because this not only promotes ‘taking responsibility’ but it also promotes financial literacy. Learning to save for the treats of life or just dealing with the necessities is an important lesson that many young people struggle with as an adult if they have not had these values supported in their childhood.
I am a strong supporter of promoting resilience in children and this small but powerful word of ‘grit’ is a word our boys here regularly. If we want our children to evolve and grow to be the best they can be, we must provide a learning culture of high expectations encouraging personal bests.  No pain, no gain! This sounds harsh but this is the reality of life. I am not advocating ‘nose to the grindstone’ stuff but providing the conditions for learning that insist on children pushing their own boundaries. If we provide a thinking curriculum (hard fun) which appropriately challenges the individual then follow up with the right encouragement and expectation, then we have created a powerful learning environment. If parents join us in this approach, we set children up for success.

Some of the best parenting advice I have seen is from D.A. Hutcheson, Head of Nightingale-Bamford School in NY city. She said,

“Life can often be a struggle, and mostly we don’t enjoy that struggle. Yet life would be dull without it. As a parent myself, I don’t like seeing my children struggle but it is in that struggle where children learn the most. Really, as much as possible we should let our children negotiate the bumps and ups and downs of school themselves, rather than sweeping in to negotiate it all for them. That’s the best gift we can give our children----so when we are not around, they can be successful on their own.” 

These are wise words which really say it all.

Ref:(1+2) Teachers Matter, Issue 24