What is grit?
KIPP is known for its teaching of character strengths and it can sometimes be problematic in the sense that we are assuming our students sometimes don't already have these strengths in them, that they must be taught. But far more often than not, I'm reminded that our students come to us already strong, already in the habit of developing character, often in the simple feats they perform everyday. Enter Abdul. You want to know what grit is? Grit is coming to the United Stats from Yemen a few months ago, struggling with English, getting knocked down 10+ hours a day in rigorous classes, and still coming to school with a smile on your face each day. Grit is getting angry and crumpling papers and sometimes running away (literally) because you're confused, but throwing yourself back into it anyways because you want to get better (plus your teacher runs faster than you and always catches you). Grit is Abdul and I don't know if any demonstration of grit I've ever done in my lifetime has compared to the grit I see in him each day. And this evening I had the chance to sit down at his house, meet his family and talk over dinner about who he is and what he needs and I've never felt more grateful to do the work I do. I hope that as teachers we continue to recognize our students' strengths and help them to cultivate those instead of convincing ourselves they need explicit teaching. Developing but never deficient.
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