Grit and Socio-Emotional Learning
I've been thinking about grit this summer. This year, one of my students was late to the first day of school because his mother's boyfriend had punched all the windows out of their car. A group of my students -- everybody's related in rural ed -- lost not one but two young aunts to breast cancer in a matter of weeks. Many of my students couch-hop from grandma's to dad's to a friend's -- I bought a kid a little hygiene kit this year to take from house to house and he hugged me. Others talk openly about knowing people who cut themselves this year. One dear student even tried to commit suicide.
Our students are up against tremendous challenges, and the talk about grit didn't reflect the level of guts and fortitude kids like mine require just to get to school sometimes - even when they get to school late. I'm glad that socio-emotional learning has taken off in Edu circles in place of the deficit mindset that the "grit" conversations often created.
In my class, a great tool we use for socio-emotional learning is Costa and Kallick's 16 Habits of Mind. The model avoids the deficit trap; students see ways they already use positive habits of mind to grow, and they recognize areas in which they need development. We learn about the Habits at the beginning of the year and revisit them constantly. I have students write in their journals throughout the course about which Habit of Mind they're using in a certain unit or group project.The posters in my class (made with canva) also encourage students to keep trying, we talk about them throughout the year.
We benefit tremendously from this model. For some students, both high-achievers and hanging-on-to-that-70-by-the-skin-of-their-teeth kids, they've never considered that their brain is a muscle to work. They see their accomplishments as final products, but when they struggle they think they're doing it wrong. I love helping to correct this misconception. One of the most surprising concrete results I've seen is student behavior when a sub is present. The standard journal question I leave with my subs is, "What habit of mind is important to show when you have a sub in Mrs. McManus's class? What would make Mrs. McManus proud to hear about you when she returns?" I've been so impressed by the positive feedback I hear about my classes, and I think these questions are part of the reason for our success.
At the end of the class, I give each student an award with the Habit of Mind they've shown me the most. It's a meaningful end to our time together and one of my favorite parts is when a less-popular students' peers gasp appreciatively or class I've hit on the perfect description: the kid who always gets us off track for a minute gets the "Questioning and Problem-Posing" award or the quiet girl who always turns in beautifully designed posters gets "Creating, Imagining, Innovating."
Frankly, I love my kids. I want them to love each other, and I want them to love themselves. I recommend Habits of Mind and Growth Mindset and any other kind of SEL because it has brought more love to my class, particularly to those kids whose lives are gritty enough already.