Love or Grit: Which Is a Better Indicator of Academic Achievement?

Love or Grit: Which Is a Better Indicator of Academic Achievement?

“Poverty of love causes so much violence. When you truly got love, and you know you got love, it helps you function better, you feel better about yourself, you care more about other people, you care about the neighborhood you’re from.”  –Common (Chicago Magazine, Oct. 2014)

This quote from the socially-conscious rapper Common resonates so profoundly when you think of our children in our public school system. There was a major study done at the University of Pennsylvania by developmental psychologist Angela L. Duckworth that found that a person’s “grit”, which was defined as a combination of conscientiousness and perseverance (2013), could be a predictor of academic success (University of Pennsylvania).

However, another study done by Magdelena G. Grohman from the Center for Values in Medicine, Science, and Technology at the University of Texas found that “grit” had little impact on creative achievement (Education Week).

One could agree with Common. You can have “grit” which most communities—mostly of color that have been historically marginalized have had to employ most of our lives just to survive. It is nothing new to these groups. Having creative potential that ends up not going anywhere is also nothing new for them. The opportunities just have not been there enough for a large enough number of great young minds of color to flourish.

What resonates in Common’s remark is this element of “love”. When you have love, know love, have felt love and know how to love—you function better. You ARE better. And that’s what our kids seem to be yearning for most. If we can create more schools that not just ensure the academic success of students—which is hard enough—but make sure all students know they are valued, respected and are wrapped in an environment that is safe, secure and emotionally protective—minus zero-tolerance attitudes—this is LOVE in a educational context. This measure will allow young people to realize their gifts and creative potential which is the bedrock of innovation, growth and empowerment.

Some of the ways to show this “administrative love” is to display student work around the school. Not just bulletin boards and not just in terms of who received an “A” or a “C” on that narrative essay. Work should be displayed with intention and care. The intention demonstrating that this space is a kid’s space. The care being—how do we display work that shows students’ strengths and not faults.

Love can show up in the Dean’s office. By not labeling or even thinking a child when sent to the office is “broken” but more just needs to be listened to and heard. The struggles, anxieties and confusion our children feel are the same things we as adults feel at times. All we need to feel is safe and supported. Too often, once our children experience “the office” they also experience a shame that directly impacts how they view themselves as capable human beings.

Love shows up in the classroom when teachers take the time to develop relationships with each and every one of their students—yes, even the most challenging ones. Especially the most challenging ones! That one relationship with an adult that is consistent in their lives may prove to be one of the factors in their later success.

Love shows up in the teachers’ lounge when colleagues support each other and take emotional and spiritual care of each other. Teaching is one of the top intellectually demanding professions. Some studies say teachers make over 1500 decisions a day. Some say 3000. Another says “countless”. Whatever the number, it’s too many for on human brain to handle without needing a release valve. As a colleague you could be that release valve.

Love can be demonstrated by the school leader when he or she provides mindful leadership and provides a safe, professional, yet caring workplace. Sharing of themselves to their staff and allowing their willingness to learn from others can go miles in inspiring a faculty.

Finally, love can show through the actions of parents who work in partnership with teachers and school administration. We are all on the same team! With that in mind we seek to understand first, then to be understood.

Love makes a school not just a place to learn, but a place that captures the joy of learning and nurtures the human spirit.

And without meeting these basic needs of children, how can we expect them to achieve academically or otherwise?

Concept Schools is a 501(c)3 non-profit charter school management organization with 30 charter schools in 32 campuses in 7 Midwest states.

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