Grit? Who Needs It? Apparently, Our Kids

Our fall professional book club has finished its book first read of the year, Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character. (Kudo to our principal, Tim Huttemann @lvrprincipal for leading this professional development opportunity!).

Like several books on pedagogy, learning and teaching, I read Tough’s book through the lenses of both parent and teacher hoping to gleam specific and relevant insights that would add to both my professional practice working with students and faculty, and my responsibilities of a father of three young children.

A fantastic read for both parent and teacher, I was quickly struck by the fact that we cannot separate what we hope to gather in two specifically separate filters. Parents and teachers shared similar roles and duties when it comes to youth. We need to help them build capacity. But more importantly we first need to be attached to them at some level. Many of my colleagues are very effective at engaging unwilling learners, because they simply connect with the youth. They develop strong attachments.


Sadly, Tough pays too little attention to Bowlby’s attachment theory and its prevalence towards helping our kids develop and strengthen their sense of resiliency. The author only uses a handful of pages to explain, what to me seems to make perfect sense: a child unattached is a child not engaged. A child not engaged is a child not learning. Not learning resilience, critical thinking, character, and citizenship means a youth without direction and an ability to make informed choices about their future..

It truly does take a whole village to raise a child. And at this moment, many of our youth are not connected to any true attachment; (hint: video games and peers do not count either).

However, I think what really struck me about the entire book club experience (and one that I find quite disheartening and alarming) was that less than 25% of the faculty volunteered to participate in the book club. Whether teacher or parent, at some level, EVERY adult in our school interacts with students on a daily basis. We all need to work together–parents, teachers, coaches, mentors–to build a capacity of resilience in our youth.

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