Grit

I have been running into problems this year with how I structure my Flipped Classroom.  I am facing all of the usual issues:  students not watching the videos, not using their time effectively in class, goofing around, and copying of papers.  I have a variety of policies in place to help limit the impact of these on the flow of the class.  But there was something else going on this year and I couldn’t figure out what it was exactly other than it seemed like students just gave up.  At least that’s how it felt.  As soon as something challenging was placed in their path, instead of working harder to overcome it, they just simply stopped trying.  Or, at least, they found the path around it with the least amount of work necessary.

I was an overachiever (actually still very much am) so I thrived when given the opportunity to use my creativity and imagination into developing a novel solution to a problem (probably would have made a great engineer if there wasn’t so much Calculus involved).  In every unit, students were given a list of optional assignments they could complete instead of the required ones, all non-traditional and creative, and nearly none of them were tried.  Actually, over 5 months, exactly 3 students (out of 105) tried the alternate assignments.

I was stumped.  My students were saying they wanted to do more creative work, I provided ideas for them, and they stuck with the traditional.  There had to be a rationale for this.  Then I saw the TED Ed Talks on PBS and saw the following segment:

LIGHTBULB!!  My students lack grit.  Actually, not all of them, just the majority.  The students who were excelling and getting the most from my class, truly demonstrating learning not just getting A’s, were the ones with the most grit.  Teenagers today have learned to play school.  They have learned to take the easiest route to getting the highest GPA.  Sure many of them load up on AP classes (another blog post coming soon about a conversation I had today with a student who is taking AP Music Theory even though he doesn’t play an instrument), but they do so to pad their GPAs not because they are interested in the content.

Did school beat the grit out of kids?  If so, how do we teach it to them so they can be successful?

Teenagers say they “survived high school.”  Why?  Are the ones who survived the only ones gritty enough to do so?  What do schools need to revived in order to bring some of the joy back to learning?

Ok, PLN, need your help with these questions.  Please leave your comments below so we can start a meaningful conversation.  I know some of my students are reading this and I want to hear your comments, too.

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5 thoughts on “Grit

  1. Scott MacClintic

    Marc –

    I am not surprised that few opt for the non-traditional assignments; they have been “trained” (translated “schooled”) to choose the path that has the lowest risk for failure since failure is not truly encouraged in school. One-shot, high stakes assessments do not lead to risk taking by students. Students have not been allowed to redo work and work towards ultimate mastery through struggle and challenge. By the time you get them in HS, they have had the grit schooled right out of them. All that being said, BRAVO to you for providing options for your students and encouraging them to not accept the “traditional” approach. Keep fighting the good fight.

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  2. Audrey McLaren McGoldrick

    I have the same experience with alternate assignments. I gave my students the option of doing an in-depth blog post instead of class tests, and got a few who did it very well, but most did the tests! BUT, they also had a year-long independent assignment to do, on a topic of their own choosing, using whatever tool they wanted. And I had amazing results. It's grit, but it's also interest. Creativity really flows when they're interested in the topic. I got videos, glogs, prezis, voicethreads, blogposts….not all the higest order math, mind you, but definitely up there for creativity and grit!

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  3. T.J. Ulmer

    I too struggled with your same dilemma. Trying to find ways for student to think differently and really question. I went to having students test out by showing me mastery of the concept, usually by having an individual conversation. Those students whom tested out had the opportunity to choose a project that they were curious about as long as it related to the concepts we were learning for the week. Each project was design by the students using general guidelines, potential rubrics, and ultimately the projects were approved by me. The test-out students would also peer tutor during the week. Lastly, they would present their projects on the day others were about to take the quiz or the test. The concepts presented would help make connections to all the student's learning. To sum it up when I went to the testing out I got more participation and variety.

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  4. Jon Barber

    This has been on my mind a lot recently as my school plans for next year. If we ALL start adopting challenging Project/Process/Passion-Based-Learning that requires grit, stick-to-itiveness, “rigor” (HATE that buzzword), etc., will they last … or just fade away, in hopes that we will return to the passive, easier “playing at school?”

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  5. RSchaffer

    Every year when I give the end of the year reflection (them assessing me) I get “I wish you lectured more, Why no tests?, More “regular” work, Can we do something I'm used to, as opposed to this “new” stuff all the time?” The majority of those comments actually come from the higher achieving students who are uncomfortable with venturing outside of their mastered “read/write” mode of learning. Ironically the same students will say they learned alot, but it was very challenging, time consuming and they thought this class would be easier. Because how challenging can writing a blog as a person from the Civil Rights era, or creating a video comparing and contrasing America and China's rise to power in the 20th century be?

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