Have you ever wondered what kept Thomas Edison from giving up on making the perfect lightbulb? As shown in his data, he failed several times but persisted and eventually got it. He reflected “I did not fail 999 times. I just found 999 ways not to make a lightbulb”. Thomas Edison was one of the grittiest people of all time through a simple philosophy about grit. “Grit in psychology is a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s perseverance of effort combined with the passion for a particular long-term goal or end state (a powerful motivation to achieve an objective),” (google dictionary).
Kids should grapple with challenging content in their classes so that it will teach them that life is not always easy and ultimately help them succeed in life.
There are numerous kids in school with a great deal of talent, but when their natural talent is no longer enough, and they actually have to try, they want to quit because they do not know how to cope with this new challenge.
The answer, of course, is to teach the kids grit through a gradually grander work ethic. “Will Smith, the Oscar winning actor, once said, “I’ve never really viewed myself as particularly talented. Where I excel is a ridiculous, sickening work ethic·The only thing that I see that is distinctly different about me is: I am not afraid to die on the treadmill. I will not be outworked. Period. You might have more talent than me. You might be smarter than me.
You might be sexier than me·But if we get on that treadmill together there’s two things: You’re getting off first or I’m going to die. It’s really that simple.”(Duckworth). All that Will Smith is saying, is that he might not have a load of natural talent, but he makes up for that in his impressive work ethic. What you can do naturally, without very much effort, he can do better with perseverance (grit). You can imagine the work he has put in to memorize his lines, know his cues, and be good at acting to be an actor. Also, we teach kids that failure is a bad thing, teaching them to be afraid of failure. “Sadly, our culture trains people from an early age to have a negative experience of failure. When a baby falls over when learning to walk it giggles. When at Kindergarten, mistakes start to get ‘pointed out’. We instill them with embarrassment, shame, sadness, and fear – and that carries on for the rest of their lives. No wonder people do not want to risk failing,”(Duckworth). But that doesn’t mean that failure is a bad thing… it just means the current society does not know how to promote failure in the classroom.
Failure is necessary if we want to be successful in life. If they can’t do anything beyond their existing talent, how are they going to do in an office where failure is expected (I.T.) or mowing a lawn with a tricky corner or hard area to mow. “If there is a curb, they will try to balance on it. If there is a shiny object, they will reach out for it. This is how they discover the world. Failure and risk-taking are how they learn. However, that sense of discovery and wonder is squelched in the classroom. Testing removes our desire to take risks. We need to bring risk-taking back.” (Ainissa Ramirez). When we are tested on something, we are given a letter grade, A, B, C, D, or F. F for failure not fantastic. And if you get an F, your teacher pulls you aside and lectures you about your (failure) current standing in the class. Even though this kind of encourages you to work harder, it just makes you increasingly afraid of failure. “In STEM, failure is a fact of life. Experiments don’t work out, the data doesn’t look right, or someone knocks over your experiment. There are plenty of places to learn persistence and resilience. We can also learn how failure is instructive to the design and innovation process. Science and innovation are based on trial-and-error (which is just a glorified way to say, “fail a lot”),(Ainissa Ramirez).” In STEM, failure is not a big problem (unless you don’t try to fix it), I am in STEM and can say that failure is not to be ashamed upon (unless you don’t try to correct it) but a learning experience. Though frustrating at times, it makes me learn to work a little harder if I want it done and to actually learn from it. As one of my teachers once told me, “a man who has never failed has not tried”.
Letting kids grapple with challenging topics in school is a key thing that will help them later on in life, making them “grittier”. Talent does not last, and work will require effort in order to be effective. You will fail, but do not be intimidated by this, learn from it. Use this to help you become grittier and learn to work hard without being discouraged.