After attended the positive psychology session at the TCA conference this year, I came back and changed the last 6 character traits of the year. I had stuck to the normal 9 respect, fairness, responsibility, cooperation, caring, courage, trustworthiness, dignity, excellence, and citizenship for the last 2 years. Now I changed the traits, not because these 9 traits are bad . . . because honestly they are not at all, in fact if one human could have all 9 of these traits they’d be a hero, but I changed the traits because I teach all boys.
The presenter asked us if the same kids seemed to keep winning our character trait awards each month. I vigorously nodded my head thinking her point would be something about their general character, but no. She that they won these traits because these traits characterize the “good” kids. The ones who are smart by nature, well-behaved out of habit, wouldn’t say a word out of turn because it’s not in their personality. By doing this, instead of awarding for character growth, we are awarding for best behaved.
She introduced us to the traits of grit, optimism, zest, social intelligence, curiosity, gratitude, and self-control. These are the same 7 traits used at KIPP academies around the nation. These character traits encourage children to make mistakes and keep trying. These traits prove that children don’t have to be born smart, or well-behaved, or well-mannered, or perfect, but instead, with hard work, and dedication, and perseverance, and a positive outlook on life they can achieve just as much, and probably more.
So, I figured why not give it a shot. Why not take all my little ADHD boys and instead of teaching them that good children must always sit still, why not teach them that having zest for life and enthusiasm for learning new things helps them become even more successful than sitting respectfully on the carpet spacing out?
So I started with grit. The boys took it, ate it up, and ran with it. I have never in my 3 years as a counselor heard boys, yes with an s on the end, in every single one of my classes, talk about the character trait we were practicing. They were even excited to share how gritty they day or week.
The lesson went a little like this . . .
Being Gritty and Accepting Mistakes
Topics Covered: Interpersonal Effectiveness, Decision Making, Problem Solving, Responsible Behavior, Motivation to Achieve
Character Trait: Grit
I began the lesson by first vaguely introducing the topic of grit by using this poster found on the KIPP academy website.
We talked about how gritty people try new things, don’t give up when things get hard, how they make mistakes and get more encouraged not discouraged, and how gritty people face life by saying, “I can” and not, “I can’t.”
I opened my hand to show them what a gritty mind would look like. Then I closed my hand to show what a closed mind would look like.
I gave examples of what someone with a closed mind would say: “This math is too hard,” “I can’t do this,” “I’m not going to try,” “I can’t make any friends,” and “No one here helps me.” I asked them how well someone with that kind of mind would learn. We were able to all agree that kids whose minds think like this aren’t showing Grit.
Then I gave examples of what someone with an open mind would say: “This math is hard, but I’m going to keep trying,” “I can do this,” and “I don’t have any friends….yet.” The boys told me someone with this kind of mindset would learn much better. We also discussed the power of yet – adding yet onto the end of a sentence can make all the difference! We all decided these kids are showing Grit.
(closed hand for closed, open with fingers for open)
I read them The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds.
During the story, we used our hand signals to show open or closed minds. We talked about the beauty of mistakes. We identified the mistake the girl in the book made and how she was able to use grit to overcome it.
What can you say to encourage yourself when you are afraid to make a mistake?
With the younger grades K-2, I ended the lesson here and we completed the “Why are Mistakes Wonderful?” activity page (Why Are Mistakes Wonderful_).
I had the boys sit in a circle. We rolled a dice to the center and answered a corresponding question. My questions were as followed:
- Give an example of something someone with a closed mind would say or do
- Give an example of something someone with an opened mind would say or do
- Share a mistake you’ve made
- Give an example of Grit
- Name a character from a book or movie that shows Grit
- What do you learn from making mistakes?
After each person was able to share, we began the same “Why are Mistakes Wonderful?” activity page.
Do any of you teach Grit? How do you do it? Does it seem the kids get more “fired up” about it? I’d love to heard your experiences.