As Luck Would Have it. William Shakespeare
No one understands luck like a Cubs fan. And there is a lesson there for students in this era of grit.
Grit involves the thinking that through perseverance and resilience you can reach your goals.
To some extent the ability to overcome difficulties and hang in there when the going is tough is good. Helping children with resilience during difficult times, or encouraging them to work hard to accomplish their goals is important.
And a good Cubs fan sticks by the team through thick and thin.
But there are three problems with grit and today’s students.
- It isn’t grit for children to have to overcome obstacles adults put in their way. Think rundown school facilities, high-stakes testing, and overly strict teaching.
- Today’s grit focuses too much on measuring children. There is less attention to a student’s feelings. Kids aren’t robots.
- Students also need to learn that they may have all the grit in the world but often luck is a big part of whether or not they will reach their goals.
We can help children make sound choices. But we should also let them know, that sometimes you can make all the right choices and life can still suck.
It is also human nature that sometimes we screw up. Most of us know how to get A+’s in mistakes. We should try to avoid them, but when they happen, and they will happen, students need to know how to learn from them and move on.
I was raised with the Cubs always in the background. Tickets were reasonable then, and my dad would sometimes take us to Wrigley Field.
When I visited home as an adult, I got lectured about Sandberg and Sutcliffe, or heard praises about Sosa. If I managed to sneak away from the game on TV, I’d be summoned back when Harry Caray started singing.
In 2003, when a fan snatched the ball deflecting it from the outfielder, possibly ruining the Cubs chances for a National victory, I dreaded calling my Dad.
But he surprisingly said, “Tough break, but stuff happens to the Cubbies. We’ll all be back in the spring. That’s what we do.”
Batters and pitchers, and fans, think to themselves, if only so-and-so would have swung sooner or pitched more to the left, if only they’d been able to catch that ball in the outfield etc. etc.
Certainly, practice and quick thinking can help determine outcomes.
Just like working with students and teaching them how to make good choices is a part of what schooling should be.
But life is fragile. All too often we get no say in whether life’s outcome is a rain cloud or a rainbow. Someone in the stands deflects the ball, even if they didn’t mean it, when you least expect it.
The trouble with the grit enthusiasts is that they are teaching children that they have too much control in what they do. That they can toughen-up and do what’s necessary to succeed.
So when children fail, due to outside circumstances not within their control, they will bear the responsibility. They could unduly blame themselves. They might believe they didn’t have enough grit.
Here are some examples of luck superseding grit.
- A budding actress auditions for a part in a play. Hundreds apply. She acts beautifully but doesn’t get the part.
- A student is diagnosed with reading disabilities. They can work to overcome their learning problems but the issue will always be there.
- A great young pianist, winner of many awards, applies to Julliard. Hundreds apply and the application is rejected.
- A student gets great grades and SAT scores but is rejected from the college of their choice.
- A student wants to date another student, but the feelings are not mutual.
- A teen makes healthy choices but they are diagnosed with cancer, or some other disease.
- A young person follows all the driving rules but they still get rear-ended.
We can’t always predict what lies around the corner. That’s what makes life interesting, and for those of us neurotics, a bit frightening.
Luck has a field day with us. And even when luck isn’t involved we are fallible human beings with weaknesses.
Students need to accept that and learn not to be afraid of failing, or not being perfect. And they should be able to quit sometimes too.
And whether the Cubbies win the series or not, the fans will still cheer for them next year. In some ways that’s what is so endearing about them. It’s acceptance—pure and simple.
Still, it is always nice to see a rainbow.
Try not to suck! That’s all we can do.
Nancy Bailey says
Ha! Yes, Carrie. Well said!
Sheila Resseger says
You hit the nail on the head here, Nancy: “The trouble with the grit enthusiasts is that they are teaching children that they have too much control in what they do. That they can toughen-up and do what’s necessary to succeed.
“So when children fail, due to outside circumstances not within their control, they will bear the responsibility. They could unduly blame themselves. They might believe they didn’t have enough grit.”
When the measure of school success derives from mindless/heartless algorithms, as the EdTech pushers are extolling, then a generation of children will believe that they are failures, when in fact they are precious individuals with unique potential. My favorite quote from Jonathan Kozol comes to mind:
“Instead of seeing these children for the blessings that they are, we are measuring them only by the standard of whether they will be future deficits or assets for our nation’s competitive needs.”
Roger Titcombe says
There is a great deal of confusion about ‘learning resilience’ and the idea of ‘gritty determination to succeed at all costs’ and that ‘anybody can do anything if they try hard enough’.
‘Learning Resilience’ does not mean the last two. How do I explain this? With great difficulty. You have to read this article, but it it is not an easy read – it needs ‘resilience’!
The key concept is that all deep learning that results in cognitive growth involves the necessity of making ,mistakes and learning from them.
This is especially important in what we here in the UK call maths and you call call ‘math’. This group over here promotes this approach.
The key learning theorists are Piaget, Vygotsky and your Carol Dweck
The sort of resilience I am talking about is not some kind of ‘macho’ John Wayne toughness, but more about a humble expectation of the need to try things out, get things wrong, talk about it to oneself and to peers and teachers, and so come back to the problem again with some new thinking or a modified strategy.
If you you stick with my first link it is all explained there.
If your take on ‘learning resilience’ is the same as mine then it is easy to see why I absolutely agree with the points Nancy makes in this post.
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you, Roger. I always appreciate your posts. Great things can come from mistakes.