There is always a word or phrase in education that catches the public eye and sways emotions. For instance, the new phrase that we are sold is”Grit and Resilience.” These characteristics are both promoted to guarantee student success. However, today it seems many of our students are increasingly seeking help for their many every day problems without first trying to solve these problems on their own.
Let’s look at a freshman student, Ashley, who comes in from California and experiences many days of winter. Although she wears attractive sweaters and jeans and socializes in the lobby of the advising student support center at her college, nonetheless, she is depressed. Why? She misses her mom’s nurturing meals and all the overprotective care she once regularly had. Ashley does not try to correct her situation, instead she allows her sultry behavior to affect relationships, especially with her roommate, and her academics. Just maybe Ashley isn’t resilient enough; she cannot find the grit to encourage herself to thrive away from home. Psychologist Keith Anderson (2016) suggests that resilience is also one way of building on strengths of optimism and positive emotions. But can “Grit and Resilience” ever be taught? I think so, because as humans we have to motivate ourselves to survive: awake with positive attitudes, meditate and eat balanced meals, get along with others and avoid becoming quickly “bent all out of shape.” We will always be vulnerable, and many times cannot help our emotions, but resilience is holding on and remaining strong. Grit, on the other hand, is a strong indicator of student success: it is holding on no matter what and achieving that goal.
When psychologist Angela Duckworth studied people in various challenging situations, including National Spelling Bee participants, rookie teachers in tough neighborhoods, and West Point cadets, she found one characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success…and it wasn’t social intelligence. It wasn’t good looks, physical health, and it wasn’t IQ. It was grit. (edutopia, May, 2016) Student affairs must promote “grit” ; provide an inviting, safe living area that fosters engagement and development. The truth is that grit cultivates resilience. Consider offering many role-play scenarios on real life college experiences that challenge freshmen to develop a gritty attitude towards achieving their academic goals and lasting relationships away from home. Building on these characteristics will help them in forging their own path to student success.