A Grit-ty Education

I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions. – Augusten Burroughs



I have always maintained a diverse and productive life and it’s all thanks to my life mantra: It’s the recovery that counts…

Now, this phrase nicely encapsulates all of life’s greatest learning opportunities: it is how you manage to make right what you have wronged and move on with the benefit of experience.

While working on my first community radio programs that I was having to host, produce, script, panel and cue up a drive show every week for two hours. There were never better ways to realise just HOW the channels A and B do INDEED need to be activated according to the other…Every second of dead air on live radio is another listener switching stations.

Listening. Sharing. Following directions. Making friends. Managing big emotions. Planning for the future.

From “What every school can learn from pre-school” (Anya Kamenetz)

According to Melissa Tooley and Laura Bornfreund of the New America Foundation: “schools should focus on these same skills, habits, attitudes, and mindsets with older kids. They say research shows they’re just as important as academics.”

As a Drama teacher, especially in the somewhat limited levels of engagement, participation and effort when teaching a lot of the Year 8 student cohort. Performance is discouraged, as is looking silly, feeling exposed or confronted, etc. Woodwork and Food Tech are the appropriate electives of choice.

So, in recognition of my long-standing principle of never forcing or failing a student’s performance. This was after I discovered at a parent-teacher interview with a mother and daughter that she was unable to sleep every Thursday night as she was riddled with anxiety over having Drama the next day.

My aim then for the curriculum is able to focus heavily around the classroom community building skills and peer/self assessment tasks that frame their overall marks. Risk-taking is what I pre and post-test their abilities to reflect on, as it is fundamental to the subject more than possibly any other that a safe and trusted classroom culture is established.

“It’s really hard to have high tolerance if you believe that your abilities or intelligence are fixed,” says Eduardo Briceno, CEO of Mindset Works, a company he co-founded with Dweck.

“Because if you believe ‘I can’t change my own abilities,’ then trying hard doesn’t make any sense. It’s like pounding your head against the wall.”

This is a sentiment often resonating when teaching older – mainly Years 10-12 and male – students English and they march in on the first class, defiantly declaring: “I’m no good at English, Miss. No use trying with me…” Or something to that toxic effect.

The Not-Quite Definable Skillset

Social and Emotional skills for the 21st century…even if it’s a bit gritty…

Some of the key concepts taught through the “Tools for Getting Along” curriculum were essential to the course that I taught to Year 7 in our Pastoral Care periods.

The FRIENDS Youth program was designed to be rolled out into schools across Victoria’s south-eastern Casey region specifically, given the significantly higher rates of  depressive illness and suicide attempts in adolescents.*

Over the course of ten workshops, students learn to assess and reflect on their emotions and the triggers that provoke them. It’s esentially a crash course in Cognitive Beahvioural Therapy (CBT) in the whole process modelled around:

think – feel – act


They conclude by developing their own “Coping Skills Plan” around SMART goals.

The lofty ambition that aims to cover so much content and skillsets, demonstrates that Headspace educators sure aren’t teachers!

While as a stand-alone 10-week program, my class and I certainly got a lot out of it where the students spoke honestly, freely and candidly that they have never done since in class.

I do believe that this is what Dweck means when likening the analogy to students of building up brain muscle through regular exercise. So too, would these reflective and resilience skills begin to be mastered over time.

The US are super-keen on the buzzword surrounding the “Grit” factor.

So, you think that you’ve got it..you think that you’ve got GRIT….Well, now you can test your mettle and should be teaching it, too.

Take this quiz compiled by US Penn State University by clicking here and check whether you meet the standard grit outcomes..

*If you are in need of help and need someone to talk to about your mental health and well-being, call LIFELINE 13 11 44, or contact your GP


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