In its most basic meaning, “grit” is the bravery, strength, and resolve inside a person. It is the one thing that many public schools try to crush, because it is the single biggest cause of trouble, especially among middle school and high school students. Too many educators believe it is a “spirit” that must be broken, spoon-feeding material to students that isn’t always relevant to the student, or to the student’s career goals. As John Holt explains in his article, “How Teachers Make Children Hate Reading”, “(I asked) questions designed to bring out the points that I had decided they should knowIt was a game of wits” (Holt, 195).
The overall idea behind Holt’s writing was to discuss how a classroom is run, as compared to how it could be run to create a more interesting environment for students. He recognized, as a teacher, that he was taking away the grit of the students, forcing them to read the book chosen for them. The realization came through a conversation with his sister, who was complaining that her son’s school had robbed him of his love for reading by forcing him to read about uninteresting subjects. Holt argued that the forced exploration of a book was necessary for learning, to which his sister retorted that Holt himself learned to read complicated books at a young age without the forced coercion of a classroom.
Holt realized his sister was right. He began testing the theory in his own classroom. He let the children have their grit – their desire and their independence to choose their reading. One girl in particular, who barely finished her assigned readings, chose a simple book for her first assignment. She then moved on to Moby Dick. Holt was surprised, as this girl was known for her poor reading skills. However, when given control of her own reading choices, she bravely chose books written on a topic that she loved – animals. Her own grit had provided her enough bravery and strength to increase her own reading level.
Deborah Perkins-Grough further supports the fact that a child’s grit will get him or her farther in life than any form of spoon-fed learning. Through a conversation with Angela Lee Duckworth, a human personality researcher, Perkins-Grough learned that those with grit are far more successful than those with simple, pure talent. “(The kids) who have no limit to how much they want to understand, learn, or succeed – those are the people who are both talented and gritty” (Perkins-Grough, 17).;
After studying the grit of students from elementary school all the way to West Point, Duckworth is satisfied that grit is what makes children succeed. When a learner is allowed to demonstrate a determination to learn, a strength in wanting to achieve, and a bravery in exploring new topics, they are far more successful than those who are simply blessed with intelligence or naturally talented in certain areas.
It seems to be proven that grit is what matters in education, and in life. After reading these articles, it’s important to realize that, as a society, we are robbing learners of their natural ability to learn, replacing it with bureaucratic information that isn’t always relevant to who they are as people. These articles suggest we use a child’s grit to create a lifelong love of learning, rather than tear down their independence to mold them into an army of learning soldiers, all similar, all moving through the machine called school, whether they do or do not benefit from the experience. More children would learn more if we, as a society, were to embrace grit as a natural learning tool.
I am a prime example of what children can do when their grit is not wasted, and is instead treated as a gift. Twice in my educational career, I was allowed to use my natural grit to succeed. Once was a time in physical education class, when I couldn’t climb the rope. We had to climb a rope and ring a bell at the top, and all the other kids were using pure upper strength. I simply couldn’t do it. I wound up using my legs, which were stronger, in combination with a simpler climbing method, and through my own determination, I made it to the top of the rope.
Another time when my own determination found me able to complete an important task was in math class. I was simply not getting the concepts we needed to complete an important test. I told the teacher I wasn’t getting it, but she didn’t seem to know how to help me. She got angry with me, telling me I just wasn’t smart enough to get the material. I didn’t believe her. I went to the public library and I read the notifications. I found a math tutor, on my own, who explained the concept differently. I also read various books on the concept, which helped me gain a different angle. I started passing homework assignments, and I passed the test with nearly a perfect score. The teacher insisted I cheated, but I proved my knowledge in front of her, and I was able to keep the grade. I stuck to what I knew was right, and that grit made the difference between me advancing in math classes or lagging behind my peers.
This determination will follow me into this writing class, because, isn’t writing truly about grit? As we write, we express ourselves, and we do it boldly, or we do it cautiously. Those who have true grit will pull out their best writing through opinions and solid arguments. Those who lack grit won’t back themselves up for fear of offending the reader. A sense of brevity and strength will come through in my writing, and I will present strong points to support my future writing projects.
Holt, John. "How Teachers Make Children Hate Reading." The Norton reader; an anthology of expository prose. Comp. Arthur M. Eastman. New York: Norton, 1969. 195-203. Print.
Perkins-Gough, Deborah. "The Significance of Grit: A Conversation with Angela Lee Duckworth." Educational Leadership - Resilience and Learning Sept. 2013: 14-20. Print.