11 June 2013

Grit

I have been running into problems this year with how I structure my Flipped Classroom.  I am facing all of the usual issues:  students not watching the videos, not using their time effectively in class, goofing around, and copying of papers.  I have a variety of policies in place to help limit the impact of these on the flow of the class.  But there was something else going on this year and I couldn't figure out what it was exactly other than it seemed like students just gave up.  At least that's how it felt.  As soon as something challenging was placed in their path, instead of working harder to overcome it, they just simply stopped trying.  Or, at least, they found the path around it with the least amount of work necessary.

I was an overachiever (actually still very much am) so I thrived when given the opportunity to use my creativity and imagination into developing a novel solution to a problem (probably would have made a great engineer if there wasn't so much Calculus involved).  In every unit, students were given a list of optional assignments they could complete instead of the required ones, all non-traditional and creative, and nearly none of them were tried.  Actually, over 5 months, exactly 3 students (out of 105) tried the alternate assignments.

I was stumped.  My students were saying they wanted to do more creative work, I provided ideas for them, and they stuck with the traditional.  There had to be a rationale for this.  Then I saw the TED Ed Talks on PBS and saw the following segment:

LIGHTBULB!!  My students lack grit.  Actually, not all of them, just the majority.  The students who were excelling and getting the most from my class, truly demonstrating learning not just getting A's, were the ones with the most grit.  Teenagers today have learned to play school.  They have learned to take the easiest route to getting the highest GPA.  Sure many of them load up on AP classes (another blog post coming soon about a conversation I had today with a student who is taking AP Music Theory even though he doesn't play an instrument), but they do so to pad their GPAs not because they are interested in the content.

Did school beat the grit out of kids?  If so, how do we teach it to them so they can be successful?

Teenagers say they "survived high school."  Why?  Are the ones who survived the only ones gritty enough to do so?  What do schools need to revived in order to bring some of the joy back to learning?

Ok, PLN, need your help with these questions.  Please leave your comments below so we can start a meaningful conversation.  I know some of my students are reading this and I want to hear your comments, too.