On Developing Grit: Part 3 of 3

Part 3: A Quibble 

I think Tom Hoerr has it absolutely right when he says that “teaching for grit is more an attitude than a strategy” (Fostering Grit, p. 10). In fact, when we set out to write a lesson for grit-building, I think we get it wrong.


Photo courtesy of Crossroads College Preparatory School

A lesson plan that sets out deliberately to give the student a frustration experience disregards a fundamental principle of compassion. The well-known quotation, attributed both to Ian MacLaren and (apparently erroneously) to Plato, captures it well: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”  We don’t know what challenges our students face outside of our line of vision, but we can count on the fact that they exist.

It seems to me that the best teachers create an environment, provide resources, and plan learning activities with that sweet spot in mind: thplace where the student both must work for it and has a reasonable chance of eventual success. I believe it is at the outer edges of what Vygotsky refers to as the student’s zone of proximal development — rather than beyond it — that we find the model for developing grit. This framework keeps us rooted in the essence of our work while helping students in our care to learn, to trust, and to develop resilience.

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