Review: Angela Duckworth’s “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance”

Breaking the silence for Grit

Those of you who follow my blog have likely noticed it’s been radio silence for over a year. Like the rest of you, COVID threw me for a loop as a teacher and as a parent. Seeing the anger at school board meetings and the politicizing of education and medicine left me with a sour taste in my mouth and utterly uninspired to write much of anything. That was until I read Angela Duckworth’s Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.

Reading Grit has inspired me to put fingers to keyboard once again. Why? Because I needed to read it, right now, at this very difficult point in history and I bet a lot of you do too.

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If you enjoy Brené Brown you will enjoy Duckworth

I am a huge reader of Brené Brown (you can read my reviews of her books here) and I find Angela Duckworth’s Grit to be in a similar vein. Just like Brown, Duckworth elegantly balances story and data, anecdotes and analyses. Grit is a quick read that I believe can make a big difference in your life and in the lives of your students.

I get why some people question why they should bother reading Grit

It’s common sense that you need to get back up when you’re knocked down. Why should I bother with this book? I hear you. Grit is not for everyone.

Grit, as defined by Duckworth, is about figuring out what your true goals are and then voraciously pursuing those goals through failure, setbacks, and hardship. If you are already “gritty,” then this book may be superfluous to you, but I highly, I mean buy it right now, recommend it for parents and teachers no matter how gritty you think you are.

The minute I finished reading Grit, I was selecting some passages and quotes to use in my classroom of 12th graders and others to discuss with my kindergartener and second grader at home.

There is power in being able to point to research that shows “the highly successful” were “resilient and hardworking” AND “knew in a very, very deep way what it was they wanted…they had direction.” (Grit, 8)

So many of my students are hard working, but lack direction, or have direction, but lack work ethic. The case studies/stories in Grit enlighten and inspire readers to hone and maintain both a focused goal AND the resiliency to achieve that goal.

Additionally, Grit encourages us not to overvalue innate talent

How often have you heard: “I’m just not good at this”?

Too many times, right? You know that if a student works hard they can overcome a lack of propensity towards multiplication tables or commas, but the child may feel helpless and therefore resist the effort needed to hone the skill. They may feel that because they believe they don’t have the “talent” for a particular skill, they will never be good at that thing.

We as teachers and parents know that’s not true, but how do we convey that to our children? Through chapter three of Grit, “Effort Counts Twice.”

Duckworth spends this entire chapter explaining the dangers of “overemphasizing talent” and therefore “underemphasize[ing] everything else” (Grit 35). She shares anecdotes from a competitive swimmer, a celebrated ceramics artist, an acclaimed writer, and even actor Will Smith. Each anecdote is peppered with supporting evidence showing how success depends more on hard work and perseverance than on innate talent.

Granted, I’ve been telling my students this for years, but I don’t have the credentials or the research behind my words that Duckworth does. Grit does the heavy lifting for us.

Most importantly Grit grows

Chapter five is dedicated to how we can cultivate grit in ourselves and others. I can imagine the conversation I’ll have with a student.

“I can’t do this. I’m not good at writing,” the student says to me.

“Yes, you can. You just need to practice and stick with it. I will help you each step of the way,” I reply.

“I’m not good at sticking to anything and I don’t want to practice,” the student replies.

Here’s where chapter 5 comes in…

“You can learn to be grittier. You can learn to stick with things and to practice. Success here is not about innate talent; it’s about working hard towards a goal. Let’s set an achievable goal for this piece of writing and go from there.”

As I said in the beginning, since the outbreak of COVID and the strain it has placed on our education system I have felt utterly uninspired. Grit changed that for me. Maybe it can do the same for you.

Looking for more helpful reading material? Check out these posts:

I recommend reading Brené Brown
Recommended reading for future/new teachers

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A Teacher's Guide

I am a National Board Certified educator currently teaching in Virginia. I have taught the following: English 9, 10, 11, and 12 (on academic, collaborative, and honors levels); Dual Enrollment English; Mass Communications, Yearbook, Newspaper, and Communications Technology. I have experience in five different school systems, four in Virginia and one in Maryland. I served as my school’s 2019 Teacher of the Year and was a top five finalist for the Teacher of the Year for Virginia Beach City Public Schools. I am passionate about recruiting and retaining quality educators in our public schools. Let me help you find your path to changing lives through teaching!

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