While Christmas shopping with my wife this year, we passed a chocolate shop in the mall with a glossy, color poster in the window of something I thought to be a strange combination - Sea Salt Caramels. While both "sea salt" and "caramels" are good, I had never imagined them going together - and then my wife made me try one. "Genius!" I shouted as I chewed on the first bite.
Much like my surprise at the genius of sea salt and caramel, some people may be surprised to hear that creativity and grit are also a handsome pair. Creativity may spark images of calm, serene, art-filled scenes with beautiful landscapes; while grit may spark images of sleeves being rolled up, furrowed brows, and sweat on an upper lip. This is where the genius of it all lies. By taking two different concepts, such as with sea salt and caramel, and joining them together (like grit and creativity), we become witness to empowering genius!
Grit is what I call a "power trait," and it is something that we can help to purposefully foster in students.Purposefully. This power trait can be developed by allowing for what David and Tom Kelley call "Creative Confidence" (click here) to be developed in students.
For far too long, creativity has been stripped form our children's classroom experiences. Children begin school as the most curious of beings - always wondering, craving more information, seeking to understand why and how things are the way they are. Sadly, it does not take long for these children to learn what often really matters in school: compliance, correct answers, being on time, and standing in straight lines (don't forget to keep your hands to yourself!). It is an industrial model of education that resulted from the need to create good, dutiful line workers. This system was further bolstered by the era of high-stakes accountability tests that swept the nation the past few decades.
Insomuch, children are quickly trained to fear failure, to fear straying off the "right" path. Sometimes, even when we say that we want students to be creative, we will unwittingly keep them inside the proverbial box. And because they are trained to fear failure, they often lack the inspiration, or the will to take on tough challenges, and to struggle through something. This embrace of struggle is what I mean by "grit."
We allow for creativity to abound for students when they have the chance to tinker, create, explore, and design - without a lot of rules and "boxes." It is within this space that they will begin to realize their creative potential. When we add in a rich appreciation of empathy - students begin to realize both a creative might and the potential for making an impact on the world around them. This significantly impacts their academic self-efficacy. Academic self-efficacy may be explained as "a student’s expectations for him or herself in relation to school achievement; and motivation thereof" (Chagala, 2012). When students increase their self-efficacy then they "set their sights higher, try harder, persevere longer, and show more resilience in the face of failure..." and they "act with greater courage, and have more persistence in tackling obstacles" (@kelleybros, p. 10).
So how do we do this? How can we foster creativity in students, and expect that an outcome from that creativity will be grit? In the new school that we are developing, we are striving to accomplish just this by embracing the practice of "Design Thinking" as the backbone for framing our curriculum. In this effort, we hope to unleash student imagination as we push them to become problem-finders, and solution-designers. To do so, they will need to learn about empathy and to understand the viewpoints/experiences of others, we will need to spark their creativity and honor their imaginations, and they will need to have the grit to persevere - to never give up. By building on these core concepts, we know that we will be able to change the paradigm of schools for hundreds of students a year.
You may learn more about Design Thinking and our program at our website (click here).
"Critical Resilience" This work is dedicated to the equal and fair education of all children, locally and globally.