Every morning, Ms. Lockett’s kindergarten class started their day with a group meeting. Ms. Lockett would stand before the class and yell “Good morning Dillard...[Ms. Lockett names her class after her alma mater]...What year are you going to college?” They would respond, “I’m going to college in year 2029.” Then she would say, “Dillard, what year are you graduating college?” Her students would yell at the top of their lungs. “I’m going to graduate college in 2033.” They would yell this chant every morning.
Ms. Lockett did this for various reasons. Her students were from communities that had seen significant traumas including poverty, natural disasters, gun violence, and racism. She wanted them to believe that even in kindergarten that they were capable of anything. She was also setting a goal for them early on. Ms. Lockett tied many of her activities throughout the day to this ultimate goal of college. When dealing with a student who didn’t want to keep trying something, Ms. Lockett would often say things like, “In college, you are going to have to keep trying when you get something wrong.” Kinder graduation felt like graduation from a prestigious university.
What if I told you that this same philosophy was followed by every teacher in every classroom all the way to 12th grade. Students at this school were taught day after day that they were striving to get to college. To reach this goal, they learned it took hard work, dedication, and perseverance. This goal required commitment. When failures occurred, the students learned that this was a part of the process and furthermore that it was important for growth. Granted, college is not a fit for every single student in every classroom. However, students learned something that applied to every part of their lives, even beyond going to college. By the time students from this school were seniors, they had fully embraced that reaching a goal required hard work. More importantly, they knew that their failures helped them grow and apply perseverance to any goal they set. The students learned commitment.
As a reminder, the concept of commitment refers to setting a goal and sticking with it. The term “grit” fits perfectly for describing what we mean by commitment. Grit refers to perseverance in the face of failure. Grit means not giving up, no matter what, even when facing obstacles. Commitment involves setting a goal and using grit to give it everything you have regardless of the challenges.
Think: Goal + Grit = Commitment-----> Resilience
Teachers model grit every day. They do this in every moment and every corner of their classroom. I cannot count the number of times that I have been moved by the way teachers go above and beyond to meet the needs of their classrooms in the face of immense challenges. Not only do you as teachers model commitment and grit everyday, you also teach grit. In every piece of encouragement, practice of patience, and the activity of instruction, educators are teaching perseverance.
Research indicates that grit can be more important than a student's intelligence when it comes to student performance. As highlighted in my story of Ms. Lockett’s class, grit can teach a student to overcome any challenges, not just academic struggles - to reach a goal.
For specific strategies on how to apply grit or goal-setting to your lessons, a simple google search will provide you with an endless supply of ideas.
Below are a few things to consider as you explore how to build commitment in your students.
Build a growth mindset. Remember that every failure is an opportunity for your students to grow.
Oftentimes in a classroom setting, the biggest obstacle to a student's commitment is frustration. How many times have your students wanted to give up due to frustration? Teach your students that they have to move past frustration using mindfulness and social-emotional strategies like self-calming.
Model your own perseverance whenever you can. Show grit/commitment at every turn.
Make a BIG deal when they show you grit and commitment. Celebrate grit. For example, a student’s growth from a C to a low B should be celebrated just as we acknowledge a positive in the A’s in the class.
Take time. I have been moved to tears watching a teacher sitting with a student before school patiently walking them through a problem. You are our heroes!
This tip references the teaching of kindergarten teacher...
Employer: Crocker College Prep
Job Title: Kindergarten Teacher
Take a moment to watch this video. A former 7th grade math teacher explores the importance of perseverance.