Got Grit?

It sounds simple, right?  I’d like to think that this is common sense.  But sometimes I think that kids – and adults – are so afraid of failing that they don’t even try.

“Falling down is part of life.  Getting up is living.” (anonymous)

The word “grit” is a hot topic of late.   Maybe it’s a buzz word in your school, district or community.  You might have watched psychologist Angela Duckworth’s inspiring  Ted Talk or even read her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.

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A few months ago, I attended a book singing/speech that she gave at the University of Pennsylvania, where she works.

When I listened to her speak, I felt newly motivated to live a “gritty” life, as a parent, teacher and human being.  To follow through with my hobbies and other personal interests.  To instill a sense of dedication and “sticktoitiveness” with my own children.  (Is that a word??)  To inspire my students to “keep at it” and believe in themselves.

This sounds great in theory, but sometimes life gets in the way.  Sometimes I realize that I haven’t posted anything new to my blog in months.  (Although in my defense, I have started many blog posts in draft form!).

How would Angela rate this, I sometimes wonder to myself?  Would she think I’m not gritty?

But then I think of the times when I have followed through in my life:

  • moving to Florida without knowing anyone to start college
  • attending grad school while working full time
  • improving my water-ski skills by dedicating three days a week to the sport – even when it meant driving an hour and a half before work one day per week (and eventually participating in the national championships)
  • more recently, applying over and over again with my local school district (for two years!) until I finally got a job

When I water-ski, sometimes I fall.

Often, it’s just a casual drop to the side, like I’m momentarily stopping to rest on the water.  As if I had planned it.  Other times, it’s choppier, abrupt.  Unplanned.  And occasionally, I’ll take an extra hard one, where I wonder if it’s all worth it, question why I devote so much time (and money) to something that’s so difficult.  But then I’ll swim to the boat, climb inside, reach for my towel.  I might be sore, tired, or frustrated. Maybe all three.  But eventually, I get back out there again.

As teachers, we do this every day.

Some days, I leave school on the high of a well executed lesson, a special connection with a student, the feeling of hard earned accomplishment.  I’m riding my slalom ski with ease, slicing through the water as if it’s butter.

But other days, I’m falling again, anything from the casual spill to the massive wipeout (an “out the front” or “header,” as water-skiers like to say). I leave work wondering if I made the right choice with my profession.

But when I drive home, I’m already reflecting about the day, about what will come next, about how to make tomorrow better.

Because tomorrow will come.  

It always does.

And I will dip my ski back into the water, grab onto the handle and take another set.

And if I fall again?

I’ll get back up.

So will you.

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We have a sign posted in our classroom that reads:

Keep at it!

I can’t say for sure, but I think that Angela would approve.