Saturday, February 15, 2014

Going for Gold: An Homage to Effort

One School's Focus on
Grit and Resilience

photo courtesy of Hubspot

Before you begin reading, predict the numbers that complete this equation.
                                     Intelligence =_____% effort vs.  _____% ability*

Consider this quote from Michael Jordan: "I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot. . .and missed. I've failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
Michael Jordan (1997 Nike commercial)

The growth mindset confirms that intelligence can be developed, and expertise can be built by means of deliberate practice.

                 What are mindsets and how do they affect our classrooms? What are ways we can build a growth mindset within our classroom? What are some ways to help students adopt a growth mindset? As I continue to research and read, these questions appear to urgently be in need of answers and more importantly transformed into daily classroom practice in every classroom beginning in preschool.  As I write this week’s blog, the world watches an entire global celebration of grit and growth mindset in Sochi. Bring it on.

          Back in August  I wrote about teachers allowing their students to struggle to help them understand that learning often times involves struggle and failure; however, with continued effort and perseverance the likelihood of success increases. Around that time one of my former college students, Rebecca Finnegan, mentioned that her school, Forman K-5 Elementary School in Plano, Texas, had set grit as their school-wide focus for the school year. The idea of a school-wide campaign on grit appealed to my logic. If one teacher focuses on grit, the students will be influenced while in that particular teacher's classroom. For a genuine shift to occur, the students need consistency over time and within different contexts. Today we gain insight from first-year teacher, Rebecca, as to what a first year focus on grit looks like at Forman Elementary. I sent her a few interview questions, and Rebecca shared the following:

How was the staff in-serviced on the year-long focus of grit?

                 Tramy Tran, our principal, told us prior to school opening that our focus for the 2013-14 school year was going to be persistence and grit. We are an 80% ED school. The majority of our students are on free or reduced lunches. We have a huge ELL population. Plano is a fairly affluent city. We have 40+ elementary schools and of those less than 10 are similar to Forman (our school). 

               Our students have gaps to fill and have to work twice as hard to meet standards other schools in the district do not usually have trouble meeting, simply due to our student population. With this in mind, I think Ms. Tran felt grit (persistence and grit) was the perfect focus for our students to help them learn skills to be successful.

              In August we were shown this TED talk video from Angela Duckworth about grit and her findings of how it was such a key factor in student success. As a staff we discussed what grit meant to us and how we could apply that in our classroom to help make our students more successful.  

When the students began the year they learned about growth mindset vs. a fixed mindset

 Videos were used for instruction and motivation in each classroom.

I know the answer,but what if I'm wrong
From failure you learn


Michal Jordan explains why failure has allowed him to succeed

Don't compare your inside to someone else's outside.

What does focusing on grit looks like at Forman

               Bulletin Boards in the hallways at the continuing  to display themes of grit. 

Staff T-Shirts are themed as “The Key to Success is Persistence and Grit.” 

Teachers' personal narratives about grit are displayed in the hallway. 

                Each Friday there are school wide morning assemblies, or during mid-morning assemblies on early release days, teachers share their personal stories of persistence and grit with the student population. 

               During morning announcements over the PA, we use the term “persistence and grit” in regards to just about everything. When talking about the science fair, focusing on our daily reading goals, showing growth with our intervention software (iStation and Think Through Math), our writers of the month, etc.

How have individual teacher’s classroom environment changed

I think teachers are using the term “grit” in their classrooms in a way that it never was before. It is now part of the vernacular of our students. Rewards are given for those students who exhibit hard work and growth due to using “grit”. Many teachers are bringing in real world examples of grit that have helped people succeed in life (sports figures, children with disabilities, other famous figures, etc.) and having classroom discussions focused around this idea.

How have you addressed grit in your classroom this year?
              In my classroom I have the words persistence and grit displayed, and refer to them almost daily. My students define grit as "never giving up," that is in their own words. They often make connections to grit and see it in stories and other situations. 

               My focus for grit in the classroom is on building their stamina and confidence in their own abilities, as well as building cognition. We focus on applying that to our reading and reading comprehension especially. Honestly, most of my students read below grade level, but will be expected to take and pass a grade level standardized test that has questions they will have a very hard time understanding. My job is to give them tools and skill sets to do the very best they can and to not feel overwhelmed/ready to quit before they even begin. 
               I model grit as often as possible for my students, and have found myself on many, many occasions using it myself. Often times, not only as a first year teacher in a public school but in a school like Forman especially, I find myself overwhelmed with all of the things I have to do that have nothing to do with planning quality lessons  that take up most my time. This leads to 10-12 hour days and often interferes with time with my family.  I also am overwhelmed with the task of trying to get 21 sweet babies who struggle daily to pass not only the STAAR test, but third grade! How do I meet all of their individual needs when they are so great? 

               I feel like giving up every day due to the fear that I will fail the monumental task entrusted to me, but know that I need to push on and push through (use grit) because the job I have is so very important, and these kids have been given up on by too many in their lives already.
               Rebecca. Thank you so much for sharing what your school is doing to foster grit and growth mindset at your school. We can all empathize with the weight you carry on your shoulders as a first year teacher.  Believe me no teacher wishes they could relive that year again. 

              Teaching reeks stress and havoc as a result of juggling so many priorities, and yes, they ALL are priorities that ALL need our time and attention. Right now. And faster is better. The sad reality is that our accelerated pace truly does not serve anyone--teachers and/or students.  For a new teacher, the pace and the expectations can be toxic in the same way it is for our struggling students. It is not how fast students master learning but rather their persistence, grit, and effort they put forth along with the right menu of teaching strategies. The growth mindset of a teacher contributes greatly to his or her responsiveness to the needs of students.

Let us all step back, take a deep breath, be reminded that teaching is the most noble of all professions. We are truly the fortunate who can call themselves teachers. Thanks for stopping by and strengthening some neurons. Best wishes for a Happy Saturday.

* Depending on your mindset:  
Fixed mindset = 35% effort vs. 65% ability
Growth  mindset = 65% effort vs. 35% ability

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