Why grit? Why now?
Imagine a race where every runner begins with the exact same running ability. At some point, fatigue sets in. Some runners slowly falter, fading into the background while other runners continue pushing themselves. After a certain distance, all of the runners will have stopped - leaving one who outlasts the rest. If all runners have the same ability, what is the difference among the first to drop out, the fifth, and the one who never stops? More importantly, can that intangible difference be measured and developed?
Yes, it can.
Grit is a skill, an ability that is malleable and transferable among contexts. Grit, the combination of sustained hard work and resiliency, is the difference between those who give up and those who don’t. Creating a learning environment that fosters grit development should be a significant focus for educators of all students, regardless of ability. However, in an era of talent development and the pursuit of excellence, we must especially equip our gifted learners with the perseverance that is essential to reaching high levels of success.
The talent development model is easily understood in athletics and the arts. Athletes, musicians, and actors practice regularly, are given immediate feedback, and push themselves beyond failure in order to succeed. While talks of talent development in the gifted education world have been happening across the country, teachers and administrators are still unclear about what this looks like in a public school setting. How can we take a model that is successful in one realm and replicate it in another? Furthermore, what “talent” should be the focus in school?
The reality is that we need to focus not on the talent, but on the skills necessary to be successful given a particular talent or interest.
Every student is not going to reach an elite level of success in every content area. In fact, a student may reach this level in an area outside of school, or may peak well before reaching eminence. By definition, eminence is not a feasible goal for everyone. Few will reach it, but all will benefit from being “gritty,” from learning to be resilient after failure.
By equipping gifted and talented students with grittiness, we can continue the discussion on talent development in very real terms. A lofty ideal becomes a possible reality when teachers know how to support and challenge their gifted students. A book that provides a rationale for grit in the classroom, coupled with ideas for building a gritty school culture, can build the momentum the gifted community needs to actualize the talent development model.