What We’re Reading - Grit by Angela Duckworth

We’re readers over here at Einstein Academy. Reading helps us grow and learn and push our thinking, and we’d love to share some of what we read with you!

Our most recent read was Grit by Angela Duckworth. Duckworth, was a math and science teacher before becoming a researcher. In her research (and this book), she focuses on the high achievers and why they are able to achieve so much and be so successful, profiling West Point cadets, spelling bee champions, CEOs and sports coaches, and others. She looks at what differentiates people who are mediocre from those who are good in these areas and from those who stand out, and what she has determined to be the number one predictor is grit.

Here’s an excerpt from her book:

“Why were the highly accomplished so dogged in their pursuits? For most, there was no realistic expectation of ever catching up to their ambitions. In their own eyes, they were never good enough. They were the opposite of complacent. And yet, in a very real sense, they were satisfied being unsatisfied. Each was chasing something of unparalleled interest and importance, and it was the chase -- as much as the capture -- that was gratifying. Even if some of the things they had to do were boring, or frustrating, or even painful, they wouldn’t dream of giving up, Their passion was enduring.

In sum, no matter the domain, the highly successful had a kind of ferocious determination that played out in two ways. First, these exemplars were unusually resilient and hardworking. Seconds, they knew in a very, very deep way what they wanted. They not only had determination, they had direction.

It was this combination of passion and perseverance that made high achievers special. In a word, they had grit.”

Grit at Einstein Academy

Grit is a major focus for us at Einstein Academy as we work with students to be perseverant and resilient. Duckworth lists passion and purpose as the two key components to grit, and these are also two important elements for us at our school. We believe in instilling in kids as a young age the idea that they can (and should) be problem seekers and problems solvers, helping them to understand that they can make a difference and a positive impact, no matter their age. This is purpose (which Duckworth defines as, “the intention to contribute to the well-being of others”).

Passion is also important, but maybe a little overwhelming to an elementary school student. Often younger students haven’t had an opportunity to explore their passions. Yes, they might love Legos or the latest book series or soccer, but our job as educators is to help them explore their worlds and find that passion. Encouraging students to find personal meaning in prayers, making the learning relevant and authentic to their worlds, providing opportunities for voice and choice however and whenever possible, and giving the students space to direct their learning is a start. These activities and the way we structure our learning in general expose students to the broader world and empower them to engage with their interests at a deeper level.

There is a Japanese concept called “ikigai” that describes the intersection of what you love, what the world needs, what you’re good at, and what you can be paid for (see image).

Imagine a world where we could all live in our ikigai all day? What if we could get paid for doing what we love and what we’re good at because the world also needs it? We’re fortunate at Einstein Academy because, for us, creating this school is the epitome of ikigai, and we want to bring that to our students. Students could replace “what you can be paid for” with “curriculum that aligns with the state standards,” and that’s our aim for their learning everyday...and then, maybe, we can help set them on a path that eventually they are paid for it.

Grit at Home

Duckworth includes a chapter called “Parenting for Grit,” offering anecdotes and guidance on fostering grit in the people for whom you care (including a child/parent or student/teacher relationship). One piece she emphasizes is the value of being a “wise parent.” Wise parenting falls into the top-right quadrant in the graphic below and involves a balance of being supportive and demanding. Wise parenting is Duckworth’s terms for “authoritative parenting,” and she describes parents in this quadrant as follows: “Parents in this quadrant are accurate judges of the psychological needs of their children. They appreciate that children need love, limits, and latitude to reach their full potential. Their authority is based on knowledge and wisdom, rather than power.”

Wise parents foster grit in kids because they hold their children to high standards and push them to grow while also supporting them in that growth and making them feel safe in that growth.

With all that in mind...how are you fostering grit in your kids?

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