A couple of my friends (now in their 30s) have considered teaching as a temporary career. I am unashamedly vocal about the value of public schools and how we need passionate teachers, so I find myself trying to recruit those who have a charisma about them. Unfortunately, charisma will only take you so far.
Teaching takes grit. That double-down, white knuckle, determination mixed with passion. That’s what teaching kids requires.
Susan recently read an article that summarized a study about grit. The author defines grit as “passion and perseverance for long-term goals.” Angela Duckworth, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, studied Ivy League undergrads, spelling bee champions, and cadets at West Point, and she found that grit was the best predictor for success--more than talent! (Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews, & Kelly, 2007).
But then I started thinking: Teaching demands even more than that!
Teaching requires selfless grit.
Those Ivy League-ers had long-term goals for themselves.
I have a hunch that grit becomes grittier when it’s not for your own success.
We teachers are very passionate people--those who aren’t passionate don’t last long--and we tend to vocally criticize policy changes and poor administrators, which is probably not always good.
But in the end, it’s always about someone else. The kids.
Few jobs in this world require you to spend large amounts of time outside of work planning, grading, going to sporting events, and decorating, while all the while creating relationships with kids, who quite often break your heart with the bad decisions they make or with the obstacles they are forced to overcome. I’ve cried many tears with students and for students. That’s grit.
Think about the people, excluding family members, in your life who made the most impact on who you are. Most likely, those people are teachers, coaches, directors, or professors. They had grit. For you.
.Should you choose to enter the most incredible profession in the world... Susan and I came up with several undeniable attributes of what “teacher grit” might look like in your classroom:
1) Driven. You would be driven by a deeply rooted moral purpose. This purpose would include touching the lives of children each and every day, helping them realize their potential as students, leaders, and responsible, compassionate citizens.
2) Focused. When things get tough, you would stay focused on what’s most important. Buzzwords, trends, and policy are ever changing. The current landscape would not interfere with you doing what is best for your students.
3) Challenged. When a student struggles to understand, you would take this as a personal challenge to figure out different ways to teach them until they have a “light bulb moment” and really get it.
4) No excuses. You would not let factors out of your control hinder student success. You would understand…. and accept, that parent involvement (too much or too little), home life, economic circumstances, and many other potential influences may indeed be out of your control.
You would not use those concerns that are out of your control as excuses or obstacles, rather, as opportunities to teach your students how to overcome adversity standing in the way of success.
So, do you have the grit that it takes?
What does teacher grit look like to you? Instagram and tag @passionpurposeandpedagogy #teachergrit
Duckworth, A., Peterson, C., Matthews, M., & Kelly, D. (2007). Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(6), 1087-1101. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01781. Retrieved on January 3, 2015 from https://www.sas.upenn.edu/~duckwort/images/Grit%20JPSP.pdf
Susan Dewees, Ed.D. is an administrator at a large middle school. She also served as a Turnaround Team Coordinator for a public school district in Louisiana. She has 20 years of experience in public school education, and special education is one of her specialties.
Erin Stokes, Ed.D. is a Title I Instructional Coordinator for a public school district in Louisiana. She has over 10 years of experience as a teacher and instructional coach. She is also an adjuct professor at Louisiana College. She loves students, teachers, and most of all--learning.
Becky Pippen, Ed.D. is currently serving as principal of a large middle school in Louisiana. She has over 20 years experience in educational leadership. She is passionate about improving the teacher workforce so that all students have the quality of instruction they deserve.