Instilling Hope Generates Grit

We are excited to begin a new school year in District 30, and I welcome our parents and community to another magical year. As we start the 2017-18 school year, it is hard to believe my children are 27 and 24 years old. I am proud that they are both caring and capable teachers. My wife and I enjoyed every phase of life, as they grew from excited toddlers into curious children, and now into invested young adults.

Collectively, our job in raising our children centers around helping them continue to develop and grow into independent, perseverant adults. District 30 has been part of the team raising children in our community since 1860. Consider our grammar school students shown here in 1903:

Reflect on the societal changes these young men and women saw in their lifetime. They needed to adapt, possess a growth mindset, and to employ grit.

This year’s kindergarteners will graduate from high school in 2030 and college in 2034:

Ponder the changes they will see in their lives and careers. They will need to have the ability to adapt to change, embrace a growth mindset, and they will need to exercise grit.

District 30 exists to create a community that craves learning, fosters resiliency, and cares deeply for every child. We honor childhood and focus on growth. In one of my earlier blogs, Mindset & Grit blog, I reflected on the book Mindset, by Carol Dweck. I recommend that every parent and educator read this book.

As we begin this year, I want to reflect on and recommend the book Grit, by Angela Duckworth. For Angela, grit has two components: passion and perseverance. These are two essential attributes for every child. Angela provides insights for how we can intentionally build grit in ourselves and our children.

Passion & Purpose

This book joins many other sources advocating for discovering and following our passions, which creates true purpose in life. William James foretold this a century ago, “The casting vote for how well we can expect to do in any endeavor is desire and passion, the strength of our interest.” Angela emphasized that half of grit is perseverance and that nobody works doggedly on something they don’t find intrinsically interesting.  Research shows:

  • People are enormously more satisfied with their jobs when they do something that fits their interests
  • People perform better at work when what they are interested in what they do

Support is Key

Interests are triggered by interactions with the outside world, and they thrive when there is a crew of encouraging supporters, including parents, teachers, coaches, and peers. We can and should help our young men and women to discover and follow their passions. Encourage them to consider the following questions:

  • Where does my mind wander?
  • What do I really care about?
  • What matters most to me?
  • How do I enjoy spending my time?
  • And in contrast, what do I find absolutely unbearable?

Hope & Perseverance

Perseverance requires hope, which is fueled by a growth mindset:

Growth Mindset → Optimistic self-talk → Perseverance over adversity

Angela pointed out that:

talent x effort = skill

skill x effort = achievement

Perseverance requires our students to have hope in the fact that their effort can impact their achievement. When it comes to achievement, effort counts twice. The key ingredient for success is completely within our control, and our language we use with our students can cultivate perseverance by reinforcing these important points:

Undermines Growth Mindset and Grit Promotes Growth Mindset and Grit
“You’re a natural! I love that.”

“Well, at least you tried.”


“Great job! You’re so talented!”

“This is hard. Don’t feel bad if you can’t do it.”

“Maybe this just isn’t your strength. Don’t worry-you have other things to contribute.”

“You’re a learner! I love that.”

“That didn’t work. Let’s talk about how you approached it and what might work better.”

“Great job! What’s one thing that could have been even better?”

“This is hard. Don’t feel bad if you can’t do it yet.”

“I have high standards. I’m holding you to them because I know we can reach them together.”

Deliberate Practice

Anders Ericsson’s research concluded that it takes ten thousand hours of practice over ten years to achieve elite levels of expertise. We all know that making significant progress on meaningful tasks involves failing at first. A key to achievement is deliberate practice, which includes four components:

  • A clearly defined stretch goal
  • Full concentration and effort
  • Immediate and informative feedback
  • Repetition with reflection and refinement

Angela noted that students who learned about the benefits of deliberate practice were more likely to focus on their weaknesses and “concentrate one hundred percent.”

Thank you all for partnering with us to instill hope as we help to build grit in all of our students. Together, we will continue to create a community that craves learning, fosters resiliency, and cares deeply for every child! Here is to a fantastic 2017-2018 school year!


Brian K. Wegley

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