I find the recent interest in assisting our students to develop “grit” and a “growth mindset” very perplexing. Is it because of the Common Core Standards and the struggles that many students are facing that some are giving up? Have all those years of giving Johnny a gold star for effort and Jill the same gold star for excellence backfired on us? One day we are teaching that reading opens up a world of imagination and creativity, and the next we are bombarding our students with close reading, analysis, and textual evidence. One day twenty plus two didn’t involve subtracting ten from thirty, standing on your head, and explaining the meaning of the Gettysburg Address in Pig Latin.
Years ago in our agrarian society, our forefathers and subsequent pioneers learned that giving up meant the difference between food on the table and starvation. But today the sense of urgency is gone. The belief that one needs to be responsible for his or her actions, that most things are worth waiting for, and that hard work begets success has been left at the wayside. Society now to glorifies the outcome (“Check out my new iPhone!”) while ignoring the process (Steve Jobs had been tinkering with this technology years before we even knew we wanted it).
I’m so glad that my children attended nursery school and preschool. If they hadn’t, they would have missed out on visiting the local farm to plant seeds, watching chicks hatch in their classroom incubator, and reading a book for fun. Learning took time, but it was enjoyable and meaningful.
Instead of merely discussing the concepts of “grit” and a “growth mindset” to our students, we need to provide them with safe and nurturing environments where they have the opportunity to fail. And to learn from their mistakes. Learning is a process, and each step brings us closer to our goal. Sometimes we don’t even reach our original goal, but it is how we have changed and developed along the way that is the true essence of learning.
For a true testimony to children's perseverance, check out this link about some crazy ways students have to travel to pursue their education: http://buzzstopp.com/2015/07/11/20-craziest-ways-kids-risk-their-lives-to-get-to-school/. These photos bring new meaning to the old saying "back in my day."
Kristina A. Holzweiss
Ed Tech School Librarian