Friday, July 25, 2014

People Are Buzzing About Grit

What is grit? Well, if you went to  you would get this definition:

  • Abrasive particles
  • A coarse-grained rock with sharp edges
  • Firmness of character, pluck
The concept of grit in education is being tossed around a lot lately. I"m pretty sure people aren't having discussions about rocks or particles, unless of course they are talking about something in the realm of science. Instead these discussions are centered around character, determination, perseverance. Is the concept of grit something that can be taught? That in itself is another topic being batted around. I had recently shown this TED talk given by Angela Lee Duckworth on this very same topic.

The purpose of showing the presentation to my students actually had nothing to do with the topic itself. I selected it because my students were getting ready to give oral presentations, and her TED talk is a great example of a good presentation. Really good. Dr. Duckworth gets her point across. She convinces her audience that this is a topic that definitely warrants further exploration!

If you Google Angela Lee Duckworth, you will actually find she has begun work on answering this question. You can even find out how much grit you have by taking an online quiz. By the way, I scored a 4.38 out a possible 5; meaning I have a fair amount of grit.

As you interact with students in the upcoming school year, ask yourself this question: "Are the students I am working with or observing being provided with opportunities to determine if they do have an amount of grit?" Are they being exposed to authentic and rigorous learning experiences on a daily basis? While we continue to debate whether or not this concept can be taught, we can most certainly continue to develop and implement lessons and programs that strengthen students' problem solving skills, their character, and their ability to persevere. Keep your eyes open. You just may be teaching grit without even knowing it! 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

I'm So Glad I Teach

Since I finished my doctorate, I was given the opportunity to fulfill one of my lifetime dreams: to teach at the college level. After spending eight years away from working as a classroom teacher, it felt good to get back in to it. What I didn't realize at the time was just how good this experience was for me. Besides the fact that I am so humbled to be working with while simultaneously learning from  such AMAZING students, I've become more reflective on my position as a building administrator. Having the ability to work as a teacher while serving as a building administrator has caused me to look at what I do from a completely different lens. Am I giving it my absolute best? Since it is summer, I think my reflections have been deeper than normal.

What Is My Purpose? 
I remember having a really bad day during my first year as an administrator. I was standing in my office, staring at the HUGE pile of stuff on my desk, and shifting my glance to my computer screen where 20 new "urgent" emails had popped up. While I was staring in disbelief at my computer, I could hear my name being called on the radio attached to my hip because the parent of the kid I had just suspended had arrived. By the way, I had missed my classroom observation because I was dealing with the kid I had to suspend. In addition, they really didn't need to call me because I could hear both mother and daughter arguing at the top of their lungs just outside my office.

In that moment, I asked myself, "Why on earth am I subjecting myself to this? I thought I was supposed to be an educational leader!" As quickly as I had those thoughts, I thought about the kids and the teachers. I was here because I wanted the very best for kids and teachers. I took a deep breath, straightened the pile on my desk, turned off the computer monitor, and went to greet the parent. I also made a mental note to apologize to the teacher and accepted the fact I would be staying late to address the pile on my desk and the mail in my in-box.

How Can I Improve? 
I think of that day as a turning point. I was kind of a know-it-all. I had a master's degree that told me as much, right? WRONG! I had never felt so overwhelmed in my position as I had that day. I made the mistake of making the series of unfortunate events all about me, and paid the price. Since then, I made my focus on improving upon myself so that I can give others my absolute best. Whenever I'm having a rough day, I take a moment to remember my purpose: to do whatever it takes to help students and teachers be successful. While it may not solve all my problems, it certainly puts things into perspective.

So, What Does This Have To Do With Teaching, You Say?
Working in education is a humbling experience for me. While I feel I have a lot to offer, there is also so much about this profession of teaching and learning that I still need to learn. Working with students of my own has provided me with a snapshot of what teachers are dealing with. In order to help students succeed, we all need to be able to rely on one another's talents to be successful in this rapidly changing profession.

Speaking of rapidly changing, if you think that education is changing now, just wait and see. Keep learning! It's the only way you will be able to thrive in this world we live in. Besides, we owe it to those we work with!