Paul Tough’s book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, is a wake-up call for all of us in the education reform movement: We have to be even more clear-eyed about what we expect from an individual teacher and how we create a community (thank you, Hillary Clinton and happy birthday!) that inspires scholarship and great judgment.
It takes more than the Three Rs to turn children into full, participating members of our society. Reading, ’riting and ’rithmatic are important, but they may not be the most important thing teachers teach students who will succeed over the long term.
Educators have understood this need to help children build character for many years. And they do it every day in big ways and small.
Here’s what Tough had to say about character development in a Valerie Strauss column on WashingtonPost.com:
“As for the question of how helping kids develop grit and optimism might help them learn how to read Homer or learn geometry: I don’t go into this too deeply in the book, but I do think there’s pretty strong evidence in the psychological literature that if we can help young people improve their sense of self-efficacy – if we can help them develop what the psychologist Carol Dweck calls a growth mindset – they do better not just in the long run, but right away, in class. Dweck’s data shows that students who believe that they can improve their own abilities deal better with setbacks and apply themselves more energetically to difficult tasks – all of which would be very useful to a student about to tackle Homer or the Pythagorean Theorem.”
Thanks to journalist Paul Tough, the concept of helping students develop “grit”–the character traits they need to persevere when life gets difficult–has burst upon the public consciousness.
This national dialogue comes at a fortuitous time for VIVA Teachers. We are in the midst of a VIVA Teachers Idea Exchange in New Jersey that asks teachers about how they teach character to their students. The goal is that teachers across New Jersey (and elsewhere) will benefit from
the classroom expertise of their fellow professional educators, some of whom teach in schools with an explicit mission to help students become self-sufficient and grow up to be good decision- makers. New Jersey is firmly committed to a student-centered education system and is making lots of changes to achieve that goal. We partnered with the University of Pennsylvania, the source of some of the cutting-edge research on grit, to undertake this work. We are eager to hear from teachers across New Jersey about what a school as a whole can do to support instruction and instill the wider-ranging skills so students are equipped for wise choices and self-sufficiency. Please share the link http://bit.ly/vivanj with any you know!