The Importance of Grit in a Positive School Culture



In the Freshman Learning Community (FLC) at our school, every teacher has posted in their classroom a large sign that said “Keep CALM and HAVE GUTS.” When I ask students and teachers what this poster meant to each of them, they unanimously tell me that it means they need to practice grit and determination. FLC teachers continually encourage students to persevere through difficult academic, civic, and social situations both in and out of the classroom. It is this fostering of grit, they argue, that best prepares their students for the real world.

Using Thomas Hoerr’s recently published ASCD book Fostering Grit for inspiration, blogger and online educator Andrew Miller offers educators Five Steps to Foster Grit in the Classroom. First, he suggests teachers need to model grit in their classrooms to help students understand and better relate to the concept. Next, he advises teachers not to grade formative assessments that might punish students for making mistakes. Next, he directs teachers to look for ways to bring authenticity into their classrooms. Then, he suggests that embed ongoing revision and reflection into their instructional practices for students. Finally, he encourages teachers to continually celebrate success when students persevere.

A study released last month by the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) concludes what many of us in education already suspected: Schools that regularly engage in deeper learning strategies and student-centered practices will see an increase in academic achievement. The study followed schools that were using a model from either the Linked Learning Alliance or Envision Schools, both of which have demonstrated evidence in developing high levels of proficiency for minority and low-income students. These schools consistently promoted a school culture whereby students would develop the grit and determination to keep working through challenges and obstacles. Other common school culture traits that these schools shared were as follows: They were committed to personalized learning, they were built on positive teacher-student relationships, and they were grounded in reflection and revision.

In an age of accountability, school leaders must find better ways to maintain a positive school culture. Doing so will bolster school morale and allow the school to continue to make growth year to year. In his article Learning to Drive the Bus: 5 Ways to Build a Positive School Culture, author Jon Gordon provides school leaders with five things they must do in order to improve their school’s culture. First and foremost, school leaders themselves must remain positive in all that they do. Next, they must build a positive leadership team around them of motivated stakeholders in the school community. Next, they must develop a fleet of “bus drivers” – stakeholders who believe in the school’s positive vision and are willing to share it with everyone. Next, leaders must “tend to the roots of their tree” and not get bogged down with test scores, budgets, and other short-term results. Finally, leaders must look for ways to continually weed out negativity in their school communities. Following these steps with grit and determination, Gordon argues, will allow school leaders to make positivity and grit contagious for everyone in the school community.

This article was originally written for MultiBriefs.

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