So, THIS was interesting. Remember when I wrote about the various conversations people are having about “grit” (which I put in quotes here to signal that it’s become kind of a thing - maybe a bit of newish jargon even - versus just a regular word)? If you don’t remember, to recap, there was a very popular book called How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character, which was written by a journalist, Paul Tough, summarizing some research and investigative work he did. Some of the grit discussion in the book was based on work done by a researcher named Angela Duckworth (who has her own great bestselling book, called, unsurprisingly, Grit).
Both books’ popularity have influenced research agendas as well as conversations on school evaluation. To the point where there has been backlash about how teaching to grit or for grit (not sure what the proposition there should be… we now usually teach “to the test” which we generally agree stinks, so maybe “to” is best in this context?) is leaving out the critical issue of the context of kids’ lives. What’s happening in kids’ lives matters. It makes a huge difference in how they can show up at school; if you’ve been yelled at all night or kept awake by domestic disputes or better yet had no place to sleep because you’re homeless, you may find it hard to engage well in school. Just sayin’…
So… big drumroll, Professor Duckworth herself has weighed in with an Op Ed in The New York Times urging schools to not teach to this or evaluate school or teacher effectiveness on it. Yay, Prof Duckworth!!! She says “I felt queasy. This was not at all my intent, and this is not at all a good idea.” I loved the whole piece and immediately added her to my dream dinner companions list. That’s gonna be one heck of a dinner!
Someone else who I would imagine was cheered by this, is Washington State Teacher of the Year, Nathan Gibbs-Bowling. I discovered Nate’s blog after hearing about his being awarded the Teacher of the Year award and that he teaches at Lincoln High School. Because of its location, most of the high school kids who live at Salishan in Tacoma attend Lincoln and therefore I really perked up because we provide a fair amount of funding and have for many years to support the Community Health Advocates resident project in Salishan (please go “like” them on Facebook, you will be glad you did. Better yet, donate to their project, 100% will go straight into their community if you just make the note in the comment field that it is for CHA Salishan). These folks ROCK!! They are my heroes and often my inspiration. We work with them to learn what we should be supporting, what is the help that truly helps and how we should keep incubating to support communities to be healthier, better supported, better connected and able to advocate for themselves as effectively as possible.
Nate had posted in February an article that went viral that led off with:
“I want to tell you a secret: America really doesn’t care what happens to poor people and most black people. There I said it.”
The article was incredible. The letter he then received which he shared in his next post was all kinds of crazy and an upsetting reminder to me of how badly messed up and racist this country is. Go read it after you’re done here.
So I’m hooked on Nate already, and then in his most recent post he uses that “grit” word, but in a different way, a way I felt was kind of a gently mocking, when he says:
“They [his students] live in segregated housing on tattered and pothole filled roads. We’ve closed their elementary schools, local libraries, and Boys & Girls Club. We’ve cutback service hours and bus routes that serve their neighborhoods. They live in a food desert. My students are invisible. Tacoma, the City of Destiny, is infamous for its “grit” and often is mocked for its ramshackle appearance, but its future rests in the hands of my staff…
Teaching is more like farming than many of the other careers it gets compared to. Lincoln is a massive farm with nearly 1,500 seeds in the ground. Some have nutrient rich soil. Others are in shallow, sandy dirt and require more attention. At Lincoln 80% of our seeds live in poverty. That just means they need more fertilizer, more careful watering, and more attention from us, the farmers.
Too often when we talk about students in poverty, my students, we approach them from a deficit--we awfulize students in poverty--we talk about them as if they are incapable of learning.
They aren’t inferior, they’re poor.
They are literate, but the ways in which they are literate aren’t measurable by our assessments. There’s an academic vocabulary gap, not an intelligence gap. With love and support they’re capable of reaching the same highs as all other students. My students are worth the investment that I make in them as their teacher, and they are worth the investment we ought to make in them as a society."
We know this.
Nate, I know it too! And everyone who reads this knows it! And everyone who attends our Science of HOPE conference knows it.
Actually, that makes me think… I sure hope Nate is able to attend our Science of HOPE conference in two weeks. I would be so glad to introduce him to the also incredible Shawn Ginwright who is keynoting on Hope & Healing based on his research and community activism in urban education environments. These two need to meet! It could be a powerful enough collision of awesomeness for LIGO to detect the gravitational waves! He’d even get OSPI clock hours! Okay, actually everyone in K-12 can get clock hours, not just Nate Gibbs-Bowling (insert sheepish face here). Help me find him and get him registered! If you do, a magical prize will be yours!
With our mission to create enduring health equity, I think a lot about racism and institutional and structural bias and how it hinders opportunities for health. Another teacher I admire, Law Professor john a. powell, (yes he does the all lower caps name on purpose) is someone I love to follow. He’s already on my dinner party list… The Washington Regional Grantmakers Association (WRAG), in the OTHER Washington, recently hosted Professor powell for a talk, first of a series of six. They thoughtfully videotaped it and it is here:
I URGE you to watch. It’s over an hour, so file it for a day when you have time. I’m planning on our whole team watching it and then using it as a discussion lift off point. You could do that. WRAG created a brief discussion guide for philanthropy, but you could adapt it to your own agency/community coalition/book club/family, etc.
People in our country are really starting to have some interesting discussions about this stuff. Sometimes they are pretty scary too. The presidential debate has heated that up. Don’t worry, I’m not gonna stump for anyone here. But, I will share this hilarious comic that I believe anyone, regardless of political views, would probably find funny.
One more gift, below is a great video of security cam footage that will make you smile, maybe even grin, and probably make you want to go hug somebody.
See you in two weeks at the most magical conference ever! Hug me then! :)