Building GRIT

by Kayla Mayers, FWCL Instructor

Angela Duckworth is the leading voice on the topic of grit. As she states in this video (below), grit is the ability to sustain attention and effort toward long-term goals.  She leaves her audience with the admission that her research on grit is still on-going and that she hopes to one day share her findings on how to actually build grit in children.

The instructors at Fort Wayne Center for Learning are answering Duckworth’s call for finding a way to build grit into students who might not be so gritty. During the staff’s first conversation on this subject, we discovered that we already use strategies that we think build grit in our students! We also knew that we wanted to make sure that we continued to discover strategies to keep building grit. We use language to help students build resilience in all of our programs and the Academic Independence Management (AIM) program is where it is heard the most.

The following 3 examples will be something you would hear in an average AIM session that we believe is helping build grit in our kids:

1.Goal setting: In order to strive to persevere through long-term goals, the goals must be set first. We use language to help students discover their long-term goals. We then help them discover short-term goals that coincide with their long-term goals. We question to help them discover their own goals; we never tell them their goals.

2.Goal analysis: When students set short-term goals, we are sure to immediately make it a reality for them. We do this by asking three questions: What stopped you in the past? What might stop you in the future? What is your plan to achieve this goal? These questions immediately give them a concrete plan in order to do what they set out to do. Along the way in the AIM program, setbacks do happen and when they do we build grit by analyzing each setback with those same three questions. We find out what stopped them and tweak their plan to keep them moving toward their goal.

3.Socratic questioning: Within all of our programs, we are sure to not give answers away. There is a lot of power in the students discovering their needs and goals on their own. When they are able to see the value in something, there is more incentive for them to follow through with their plan.

Duckworth mentions that people are more likely to succeed when they are willing to fail. Our approach for building grit in our students is to help them “pull themselves up by their boot straps” in a sense. We teach them to turn a moment of failure into an opportunity to plan for success.

Watch Angela Duckworth's TED talk:  

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