On Developing Grit (Part 1 of 3)

Part 1: An Important Idea — and a Valuable Resource

It seems clear from the research summarized by Paul Tough in How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, particularly the work of Angela Duckworth, that “grit” is an important characteristic of successful people and a quality that schools and parents should foster in children.

What should we consider in creating a school environment that encourages the development of grit? Thomas R. Hoerr offers a helpful, practical resource in his new book, Fostering Grit: How Do I Prepare My Students for the Real World?, published by ASCD in August as part of their Arias series. It is a quick read that will stimulate some thinking.

Hoerr diverges ever so slightly from Duckworth’s definition as perseverance and passion for long-term goals, instead describing grit as “tenacity, perseverance, and the ability to never give up” (p.1), a component of our executive functioning that provides us with self-monitoring and emotional control. He urges us to think of teaching for grit as an attitude, one that may require us to stretch our adult comfort level with student struggle.


Among the important points Hoerr makes is his reminder that our own behavior serves as the most powerful of lessons. “Our students need to know that somewhere along the way – maybe lots of places along the way – we used grit to find our success” (p. 13). I would add that teachers will find it easier to adopt this mantra if school heads and principals, too, recognize the value of sharing their own vulnerabilities in their journeys toward their goals.

You may enjoy reading these other responses to Fostering Grit:

In her blog Principal J, Jessica Johnson, an elementary school principal and district assessment coordinator, emphasizes the relationship of Hoerr’s offering to Carol Dweck’s work on growth mindset.

Sam Patterson, a K-5 technology integration specialist, reviews Fostering Grit in his blog, My Paperless Classroom. Patterson describes it as “a great primer on active teaching for socio-emotional growth” and commends it for its clarity, noting that the book “reads like a well-planned PD session.”

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