Labouring instead of labelling; how to GetRIT of this misconception?

Posted by France on Jun 2, 2016

Perhaps GRIT defined by Angela Duckworth as “passion and perseverance for very long-term goals, having the stamina, sticking with your future day-in day-out, not for the week, not for the month, but for years”. This is somehow not compatible, almost a contradiction, to our modern society which tends to have or meet the goals set with least effort possible. It is quite refreshing and even inspiring to know that the principle of sowing and reaping works in the teaching context as well and I totally enjoyed task 8. From a personal point of view, task 8 deserves its place at this stage of the course and it will help me to engage future tasks with a positive mind-set, knowing that it’s not ability or talent that will help overcome difficulties in this new career, but my GRIT. Task 8 somehow reiterates or corroborates some key elements mentioned in previous tasks, but in a much profound way.
I was quite surprised to realise the impact that our beliefs system can affect our surroundings, particularly teachers’ beliefs that grouping students would help them offering more support, whilst this practice causes more damage than necessary. The fragility or let’s say vulnerability of students, particularly, those still in Primary Education can have severe consequences to their growth and teachers, involuntarily, contribute to their self-beliefs, at the same level as the children’s parents. “All the clever students had gone into a different class now”, if that thought is embedded into a child’s mind, it would take a lot of work to re-educate him/her and a lot of conviction that actually, this is not true. As adults, we know that if we are subject to negative comments, experience (or, our brain) would portray other events where we have demonstrated competency in the very domain we’ve been criticised and we can motivate ourselves to persevere; but for a child, every word coming from a responsible adult is ‘true’.
Mistakes are not a determinant of low ability, but an opportunity for excellence. I might have twisted Boaler’s words a little, but this is so true; it’s not how you start a marathon that counts, but the way you finish it. An analogy from the movie, ‘run fat boy run’ where despite all the adversities, he carried on and finished the race, say, 8 hours after the race official closure. Perhaps that is what Angela meant in the above definition. Or, perhaps this could be the cause for low achievements in certain schools. But, there is some consolations in all these assertions and they are: passion, perseverance, stamina, sticking with your future for a long period. It seems to me that tangible things are much quicker to acquire: money (legally or illegally), fame (depending on how bad you want it), Aston Martin, etc. whilst intangible things take longer: true friendship, true love, reliable/authentic data, etc. and good teachers. My definition of a good teacher has drastically changed since I started the course and it englobes all the qualities we have learnt so far.


  1. pepsmccrea
    7 June 2016

    Great to hear you take on the ideas so openly. Teacher beliefs do make a big difference indeed. One thing we’ve got to be careful of is assuming that just wanting it bad enough will make it happen. Learning takes a lot of effort, which is a core part of determination.

  2. aw677
    7 June 2016

    I really enjoyed reading your think piece this week, I do think that mind set will help win some pretty significant battles but will not win the war, there has to be an element of work to any achievement. I also agree that as teachers it is our responsibility to ensure that we motivate and encourage as much as possible although even this is a balance to ensure we don’t encourage over confidence whilst trying not to crush anyone’s dreams.

    • fbontemps
      7 June 2016

      Many thanks, that’s true maintaining a healthy balance is very important. What i would try to do is to have the ‘no retreat no surrender’ attitude, whilst making sure that tasks given are within the students’ ability. But I would continuously review their progress so that they are not stuck in the position (level) I have placed them. So GRIT on both sides, students and teachers, because doing this for a long period requires nothing else but GRIT.

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