Friday Four 10/5 – The Dirt on Grit

 The Dirt on Grit

There has been a great deal of coverage in the media of late following the publication of the book How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough. I have followed the discussion with a great deal of interest always trying to figure out how I could best incorporate the ideas into my work with students. The topic is of particular interest to those of us at Loomis Chaffee since we launched the Norton Family Center for the Common Good this fall. You can read a brief intro to the Center and its Director, Al Friehofer (LC ’69) here.

On the face of it, the concept of “grit” makes perfect sense and seems like a no-brainer. As with most topics in education, you really need to dig a little deeper (to expose the nitty-gritty?) and be willing to read/watch pieces from both sides of the issue as you decide how to best incorporate the ideas and philosophies into your own life and work with students. To that end, this week’s Friday Four includes a few of the perspectives that I have run across that address the topic of “grit.” I have tried to give you a range of opinions on the topic so that you can wrestle with the underlying themes and decide for yourself where you come down on the issue. I encourage you to explore beyond these few links and engage your colleagues in discussions about the topic…it is an important one for education and educators.

  • The NYTimes reviewed Tough’s book in August of this year. If you are unfamiliar with the book, this might be a good place to start.
  • Education Nation featured the topic in one of their panel discussions during their most recent summit in NYC.
  • Valerie Strauss, the education writer for The Washington Post, wrote a piece recently that is more critical of the “grit” mantra, as she puts it.
  • The Huffington Post featured a piece from outspoken education writer Alfie Kohn that also calls into question the “failure is good” theme that is a cornerstone of the the “grit” discussion.
As always, I welcome your comments or feedback. Enjoy.


New Year’s resolutions for me and my students

I have never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions. I have made them in the past, and like most people, ended up breaking them by the end of January in the best of cases. Why should this year be any different?

Over the recent break, I finally got a chance to read Carol Dweck’s book Mindset and as a result, decided to incorporate some of her “growth mindset” ideas into my own life. If you have not read the book, I highly recommend it; my wife and I read the book together and both found it to be enlightening and inspirational. Here is a link to a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education about Dweck. I was so inspired that I decided to make a few New Year’s resolutions with respect to my teaching despite my previous less than stellar experiences with resolutions. (Growth mindset at work!)

So, here are my resolutions for 2012 with respect to the classroom:

  1. Praise students more for their efforts and not their “innate” abilities. The research on the impact of how we give praise and feedback may surprise you and has a great deal to do with creating a growth vs fixed mindset. Here is a link to one study.
  2. We at Loomis Chaffee are engaging in a community-wide discussion about homework and our current homework policy. Academic departments are meeting to discuss the role of homework in their disciplines and the faculty as a whole are also discussing the topic. As a result of this school-wide initiative, I plan on asking myself the following questions about each homework assignment for my students: 1) What is the specific goal of the assignment? If I can not articulate the specific goal, then it is unlikely that my students will know why they are doing the assignment. 2) How will the students and I know if the goal was met for the assignment? Feedback and assessment (not always grades) are integral parts to a well-designed homework assignment.
Given my limited success with New Year’s resolutions, I figured that two would be plenty for me to take on. I plan on coming back to this post on the 1st and 15th of each month to assess how I am doing. I will let you know how I am doing! Do you have any resolutions you would like to share? Please feel free to post your comments here or contact me via e-mail or Twitter.

Friday Four 10/21

Friday Four 10/21

Here are four interesting/thought-provoking articles or blog posts I ran across this week that you might find interesting. Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment.

  1. Top Three Issues Facing Educational Technology. A blog post by Frank Pileiro, a technology coordinator and veteran educator. He posits that mobile technology, 21st century teaching and learning, and anytime/anywhere learning are the greatest challenges for educators.
  2. Article about Carol Dweck: Brain Exercise Boosts Motivation that addresses the question of how to encourage students to persevere in areas where they don’t feel confident. Dweck is well known for her 2006 book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.”
  3. The Fallacy of Digital Natives. A blog post that de-bunk’s the often heard argument that kids are somehow different when it comes to technology use.
  4. Teachers as Advocates. Blog post that challenges teachers to do a better job of advocating for what they are doing in the classroom.