New Slide: Talent is Cheaper than Table Salt

I’ve been thinking a ton about determination and hard work the last few weeks, wrestling with whether or not today’s kids are as gritty as they need to be.  Maybe I’m a curmudgeon, but it seems like gumption isn’t as common as it once was in our classrooms — and that’s got me worried.

Don’t get me wrong:  My students are as intellectually talented as ever.  In fact, I’d argue that they know more than I ever did when I was rolling my way through middle school.

My struggle is convincing them that talent alone isn’t enough to guarantee that they will be successful in life — and that being persistent in a world where the reset button has always been an easy lean away is still worth doing.

Anyone else worried about this stuff?

(click to enlarge)

Slide_TalentCheaperDownload: Slide_TalentCheaper (ppt)

Related Radical Reads:

How Gritty Are Today’s Learners?

Have We Made Things Too Easy for Today’s Kids?

Giving Zeros Just Doesn’t Work

Original Image Credit: Salt-(sea)_B130623 by Dubravko Soric

Licensed Creative Commons Attribution on November 1, 2013

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  • BillIvey

    constantly worried

    One of the major themes in our middle school program is turning the kids constantly in on themselves to ensure they develop self-awareness, a sense of how well they are doing in a huge variety of skill areas, and a sense that there is always room for improvement and they have the power to bring about that improvement. Girls schools, the research says, excel at supporting girls in redirecting the source of their self-esteem from the outside world watching and judging them by its own arbitrary standards to their own inner world where they set whatever gosh darn standards they want and work to measure up to their own idea of their own best selves.

    This echoes what I just wrote in my comment on Barnett’s blog, though – context also matters. I work in a context where my school’s mission supports all of those above beliefs that are so important to me and where no politician can create a situation where we continue to focus primarily on that mission (as opposed to passing tests etc.) at the risk of individual teachers being fired or the entire school being closed if they don’t meet the external standards being imposed on them (ironic much?). I don’t have to be teaching with which hand Cleopatra grabbed the asp at precisely 10:33 in the morning on Nov. 5 – I don’t even to have to teach about Cleopatra if my kids have other interests. And that’s just wrong. Every teacher should be able have what I have. So that every student can have what my kids have.

    I may be oversimplifying. Or not. But I just don’t see how students are going to develop resilience when they feel themselves to be constantly judged on a relentless stream of random things that might or might not happen to matter to them. But give them the chance to follow their passions, and you’d have a harder them holding them back than you ever used to pushing them forward. I really do believe that. I just wish I knew how to make politicians believe it.

    • billferriter

      Bill wrote:

      Bill wrote:

      I may be oversimplifying. Or not. But I just don’t see how students are going to develop resilience when they feel themselves to be constantly judged on a relentless stream of random things that might or might not happen to matter to them. 



      This is a brilliant comment, Pal — and it’s spot on times ten.  

      My kids are plenty gritty when they are working on things that they are passionate about and interested in.  Grit isn’t the hard part.  Finding space in the curriculum as defined by others where kids can be genuinely engaged in interesting topics is the hard part.  

      I’m eternally jealous of the work you get to do!

      • BillIvey

        Thanks, Bill

        I’ve seen you with your kids. Locked-in focus for 2 1/4 hours without a break, as I recall. 🙂 That sounds like grit to me! I agree, genuine engagement is the key.

  • Brian Ridpath

    Grit, Resilience, Tenacity

    Grit, resilience, tenacity are not developed by what you want to do (interest) or by what you like to do (passion). Grit, resilience, and tenacity are developed when you have to overcome distaste, dislike, boredom, etc. in order to be able to move forward into your passions and interests. Then when the thorny problem occurs in your passion or interest (ie: I am a passionate gardener, but my greenhouse fabric tore in half on a windless day) you are able to get back up and continue to move forward learning from that experience because you already have learned that attitude in the math class where you failed a test or did not understand a problem and you worked at it (with help) to do better the next time.

    All kids from all generations have had to struggle to learn these lessons of grit, resilience and tenacity in school. I agree Bill, that the kids today really seem to struggle with those qualities when it comes to their school work and the learning process. The learned helplessness from a majority of students today is alarming. Just so you know I taught High School in the 80’s and I came back to it just a few years ago so I see the difference as being striking. Testing and standards do not seem to help this situation either? 

  • MarciaPowell

    Truth Is

    Ever play Truth Is on Facebook?

    Yeah, me neither.  Because it’s not what my generation does.  Because we work hard, suck it up, and move all along without questioning.

    Enter Generation Millenial.  They work hard, but sometimes they hit a wall, and then instead of suck it up, they choose the path of questioning.  Why am I doing this?  Is it worthwhile?  Should I choose a different path?

    In other words, we are saying, basically,  “Climb the hill.”  And they are responding,  “Why that hill?  Excuse me, I don’t like hills.  Um, perhaps the vista here is lovely.  I think I’ll look for another hill.”

    Fascinating motivations behind all of this, possibly due to the fact that kids today see more choice in their future than ever before.  And if you have choice, you get to decide for yourself.  Hopefully, that means we simply need to channel them to entrepreneurship, rather than hoop jumping.  

    Back to Truth Is.  Truth is—hard work does matter, but where do these kids work hard?  Have you asked them why, exactly, they are likely to quit?  Because I’m fascinated in their answers.

    Thanks for this chance to think a bit about a subject that fascinates me.