Saturday, January 9, 2016

GRIT and Grace

What does it take to be a successful person?  Why is it important to set high expectations for ourselves? How can we influence each other to do our best in a positive, caring manner?  These were our focus questions in my classroom this past week as we began the New Year. 

Over Winter Break, Coach B (Whole Brain Teaching) announced four new sub-categories for Rule #4: Make Smart Choices!  They are: Kindness, Leadership, Courage, and Invincible GRIT.  On Monday, during Morning Meeting, I introduced these virtues, along with their accompanying gestures, to my students.  We discussed each virtue in detail, but I really honed in on Invincible GRIT this week.  “Invincible” became our amazing word of the week and we completed our Lexicon anchor chart whole group.

After filling out our Lexicon, we took this virtue to the next level and broke down the word GRIT, focusing on an acronym.  (There are a plethora of acronyms for the word “grit” online, but I felt this one was the most age-appropriate and the easiest for students to visualize and understand.) 

We discussed each of the GRIT components and how they relate to us in the classroom and in our personal lives.  Students were able to partner share their ideas on what the statements meant to them, write about how they will be able to effectively embrace these action steps, and finally, they had the opportunity to showcase what having Invincible GRIT actually looks like through role-playing.

Throughout the week, it was amazing to listen to my students as they engaged in conversations during lessons, saying to each other “Wow!  You just ignored giving up” or “Great job on erasing and starting over with your best handwriting.”  (Side note: Make sure to model genuine and specific compliments in the classroom setting so that your students are able to provide each other with positive peer encouragement that has more depth than just a quick high-five!)

By the end of the week, I had a great sense of accomplishment for how much my students had been able to grasp and take ownership of GRIT and how to immediately apply each element, not only in their school work, but also in casual conversations with each other.  This teacher was on Cloud 9! 

But, as we all know, there are always going to be one or two (or 47) hiccups during the day in any given classroom.  On Friday, I had a guest visitor come to my class.  You know the type: “A Very Important Person with a Checklist” who is there to make sure you are implementing specific classroom practices.   Knowing how diligently my students had practiced these classroom expectations since the first day of school, I had no fear.  And then the hiccups started…a few of my sweet students slipped up on some of the key aspects they had been so successful at all year.  A couple of my other students saw they had an audience and decided to show off their “special talents”.  One of my most engaged students, who I can count on to be a true leader, chose this time to forget Every. Single. Thing I had ever taught for the past 4 ½ months.  I just stood there, at the front of my room, and prayed that my visitor wouldn’t doc me for all these minor details.  I looked at my students (with those big teacher know exactly what I’m talking about) and pleaded for them to read my mind as I silently begged them to show off how amazing they really are. 

And then it dawned on me…if I was hoping for this visitor to show me a little bit of margin in that moment, then I needed to do the same for my students.  Was it really the end of the world if they weren’t being perfect?  Hadn’t I just spent all week teaching them about GRIT…that while it is so important to give it our all, we will also make mistakes along the way?  And when we make those mistakes, we just have to brush ourselves off and redo if necessary. 

So, as my visitor continued to sit at my desk and jot down comments on her “Very Important Checklist”, I looked to my students with GRACE.  I changed my focus from what they weren’t doing right, to what they were doing right.  I saw that the students who were showing off their “special talents” were still fully engaged in the lesson topic.  I noticed that other students were kindly reminding their partners how to address the class with our “College Talk” gesture.  I listened as students took time to restate their comments and questions while addressing the whole group.  Soaking it all in, I realized that every single one of my students was applying their own Invincible GRIT.  I stood tall and continued on with my lesson, showing my students the grace that they deserved…that we all deserve…while beaming with pride that I had 23 students among me who were influencing each other to be the best that they could be in an environment with very high expectations.  THIS was what success in a school was all about!

*As you begin another week in your classroom, take time to focus on GRIT.  Be a role model and talk to your students about how YOU display GRIT as a teacher.  Continue to set high expectations for yourself and your students.  Celebrate all student and teacher successes, no matter how big or small.   And at the same time, make sure to embed positivity in the classroom by showing grace to not only your students, but to yourself as well! 

P.S. Thank you to my friend for letting me bombard her phone this week as I sent her a ridiculous amount of pictures and videos of what my class was learning about for feedback.  Warning: there’s plenty more media to come as I'm planning to teach in-depth lessons on Leadership, Courage, and Kindness during the weeks to come!