Let me say for the record that I hate buzzwords. ‘Data-driven instruction’, ‘rigor’, and all the others make my skin crawl, especially when uttered by someone in a suit and tie that has never set foot in a classroom and had 30 pairs of eyes staring at them. I suppose now the word ‘grit’ has to be added to that list.
There are some in education that seem to believe if a students only wants to succeed badly enough, then that’s all they need. They might not pass classes on the way, might get retained, and might be told they haven’t ‘met the standard’, but they still have to stick with it. Be gritty. Persevere. That’s all you need.
Tell that to a student of mine that doesn’t know on a day to day basis if, come that evening, shell be staying at her father’s, her mother’s or a friend’s house. Tell that to a student of mine who misses 2-3 days of class each week because, at 15 years old, she has to take care of her ill mother. Tell that to the majority of my students whose primary source of stability outside of school hours are gang influences. Tell that to my students that, in spite of all those things, do still come to school and legitimately put forth their best effort. I’m supposed to tell them they should be gritty? They already have more grit than I have acquired in nearly 44 years on this planet.
What these kids need is for society to believe in them instead of telling them to ‘just try harder’. What these kids need is for society to become more equitable, so that they actually believe they can be as successful as the kids on the other side of town. Constantly reading that schools in other areas have all these resources, new facilities and kids going to top-tier colleges doesn’t make them want to try harder and sure as hell doesn’t make them more ‘gritty’. It makes them wonder why they are being penalized for where they live.
I don’t ask my kids to try harder. I ask my kids to set goals and make decisions that can make those goals a reality. I try to encourage them to break the cycle of drop-outs in their neighborhood. I do that not be telling them to have more grit….they already have plenty of that…but by knowing who they are and helping them to be better every day.