Flexing Grit Muscles


Over the last few weeks we have been looking at the topic of “grit.” Grit is “the quality of being able to sustain your passions, and also work really hard at them, over really disappointingly long periods of time,” according to Angela Duckworth, an expert in this area.

So why are we talking about grit? What is so important about it? Well the research on grit is compelling for parents and educators: students with high levels of grit are more successful in both academic and non-academic pursuits. It has been proven that it is more important than IQ when it comes to success.

As I was reading articles about the topic of grit I came across a quote that really stopped me in my tracks and got me thinking. Tom Hoerr, the head of a private school in the U.S. said, “One of the sayings that you hear around here [his school] a great deal is, ‘If our kids have graduated from here with nothing but success, then we have failed them, because they haven’t learned how to respond to frustration and failure.’” He followed up that statement by saying his goal is “to make sure that no matter how talented [students are], they hit the wall, so they can learn to pick themselves up, hit the wall again and pick themselves up again, and ultimately persevere and succeed.”

What he is describing is a huge paradigm shift. In most schools the environment is very different, where failure is avoided at all costs by both students and teachers. Students become afraid of failure and take steps to make sure they never face it. A lot of students for that reason never learn to take risks or pursue aspects of learning that push or challenge them.

Dalat is starting to ask questions about the whole issue of passion, perseverance, grit, self-control, and other aspects of character development that are an important part of being ready for life. Could we and/or should we make some paradigm shifts here to create an environment where students can learn to develop and flex their “grit” muscles? How do we do that? What changes need to be made? How can we encourage the right kinds of failure without discouraging the students and more importantly the parents? How do we create a grit-friendly culture?

I wish we had quick and easy answers to all these questions, but for now we are at least asking the questions. Next week we will take a look at how parents can encourage the development of grit in their own kids.

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Dalat Director

Karl Steinkamp is passionate about Dalat International School and training up young people to make a positive impact on their world, walk with integrity, and follow Christ. Karl was a student at Dalat and returned with a degree in education as a student teacher, high school principal, and now Dalat Director since 2006.

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