There’s a really huge myth that kids come to class with zero experience in the grit area…that somehow “struggle in school work” is supposed to magically teach that. By definition, grit is about courage, resolve and strength of character in the face of obstacles. In real life, those obstacles can be hindering and impossible sometimes to just “do”…because of grit. Some kids thrive and some struggle beyond school.
With boys, especially black boys…those obstacles can be crippling, especially in a world that immediately judges them unfairly because they have those obstacles to begin with and not by how they rise above them.
I am a mother of a son who struggles. Over the past year, I’ve experienced his highs and lows, mostly in private yet still very much so out in the open. He has struggled emotionally with the constant rejection of his father and financial hardships of his mother working to support him alone. He carries the weight of the world on his shoulders but his spirit in doing so is empowering and motivating…especially to his mother.
No one knows his real story. They see him, the son of a “seemingly successful” educator and assume that he is belligerent and just needs a little grit.
Trust me…he doesn’t need any more grit. He needs meaningful experiences, curiosity and the ability to escape into wonder…to be inspired. He has plenty of grit…even when you don’t see it and especially when you refuse to see it.
I can’t talk about grit without talking about my son’s good friend. He’s a young man who is learning how to survive in the face of obstacles and he is certainly trying hard. His mother, gone from his life indefinitely, is locked up and his father, unable to cope and deal, threw him from the home. He’s now thriving, in the face of hardship and rejection…living with his grandmother.
…An yet, he smiles
But…you want to teach him grit???
These two boys, for me, represent much more than the lives that they live. They are the epitome of hope. What their teachers/schools need to do is focus on how they can build a culture of support for them. How will they know that there are opportunities that can help them transcend the cards that they are dealt? How will they channel the anger and hurt into positive outcomes? How can they question the world that they live in and know that they too can contribute ideas and maybe even innovate to change their future?
If you’re focusing on grit, you’re focusing on the wrong thing because the ones who you think “need grit” the most…are the ones who are already drinking a full cup of it.
More of us need to sit back…learn from them…and create the system for their success.
Right now…it doesn’t exist.
One more thing…
Technology is not accessible to either of these boys at school. So, there’s that.