On Resilience, Determination and Grit, and All That Jazz.

It’s been a really long time since I blogged here, far longer than I ever intended to leave it. I’ve been doing a lot of writing in the meantime – I’ve written a stack of articles for Innovate My School, such as this one on what innovation means to me and this one that came about as a result of my love of Disney films. I’ve written a bunch of posts for the Labour Teachers blog, like this one about the current NUT ballot and this one about pupil premium and other labels we give students. I took part in Staffrm‘s #29daysofwriting and I’m currently working my way through their #44weeks challenge. I’ve also just submitted my first article for the UKEdChat magazine. In short, I’ve been relatively prolific, but there’s been little writing just for me or about the things that I dwell on generally.

I spent the better part of last Saturday sorting out the grasslands that had taken over my back garden and the jungle at the front. I had a lot of time to think, and I discovered a few things along the way. Two of the things I discovered were these:

Plants

On the left is a strawberry plant from about three years ago. I’d forgotten it was there and, to be honest, I didn’t realise that they lasted more than a year. On the right is a chocolate mint plant (yes, really!) that has survived a good five or more years of neglect. It’s been buried under several feet of snow, but worse than that, it’s in a pot with no drainage and is perpetually in at least an inch or two of water. I really don’t understand how both plants are still alive.

This, in a roundabout way, had me thinking about some of my students. We focus heavily on those who need interventions and extra support for however many reasons or labels we attach to them. We work hard to make sure that those students succeed to the point of expected progress, if not beyond. We push our highest achievers and we focus on our C/D borderline students (or the equivalent number grade). Those students who don’t fit into those categories though? Sometimes they have to push themselves because we don’t necessarily push them enough.

I’m not a believer in grit and resilience being the magic solution to our students’ educational woes. There’s no one thing that will suddenly see all of our students achieve their targets or exceed them. I do think, however, that perhaps if we spent a little more time explicitly teaching these concepts from an early age, and embedding them in our practice, that we’d see a difference. Like the plants above, they’d survive – if not thrive – irrespective of their learning conditions.

One of my brilliant colleagues has been working for the past couple of years on mindset and how we change it within our students. She created this resource in various formats that are displayed in every classroom:

mindset

Each pair has a fixed mindset thought on the left, and growth mindset on the left. It’s still very much a work in progress, but like any other idea, the more we collectively talk about it, the more we use the common language, the more likely it is to succeed.

I know that I’m supposed to be focusing on specific pupil premium students in my classes at the moment, but these students are the seedlings – they’re being nurtured and trained to grow big and strong. I have mighty oak trees in some of my lessons – they’re secure and doing just fine on their own. It’s the strawberries and chocolate mint that I need to remind myself to work a little more with – for though they’ll survive by quietly getting on with things, they’ll thrive with a little more care and attention.

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