Leadership Corner Sept 2020

Grit and Bear It: A Leader’s Ability to Weather the Unexpected

By Karen DeBaker

In the past few months, we’ve heard countless stories of heroes who have reached beyond their normal routine to support others in order to navigate a “new normal” way of life. As my 12-year-old starts 7th grade as a digital apprentice, I’m reminded of the heroes of the academic community and their role in nurturing our future leaders and water professionals. Like us, teachers quickly honed their abilities to adapt and pivot to online coaching, while adhering to a tome of strict achievement standards and exemplifying true grit.

I was inspired by a newsletter article I received from Mt. Tabor Middle School principal Tonya Arnold and her recommended leadership resource:
“I have watched my own three children this week reengage with school. And when I asked them how their week had gone so far last night over dinner, I was shocked and elated to hear that their first days back were positive. They were happy to see their teachers and their friends. There was joy in their voices and smiles on their faces. And even when the technology was unfamiliar, they persevered. They asked for help, they didn't give up. And it made me exceptionally thankful.”

It reminded me of the TED Talk I watched years ago about the quality of "grit." If you haven't seen this talk by Angela Duckworth, I recommend it. She talks about studies that predict success across many fields, and about how grit is the one factor above all others that can predict success. It is "passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future."

And while Angela Duckworth is clear that we don't know how we teach grit, I can't help but think that these times we are living in--times that ask us to be flexible, that ask us to stick with it even when it's tough--have the potential to develop that grit in all of us. We made it through emergency closure last spring and adjusted. It wasn't perfect, but we learned so much. And here we are months later, with a better sense of how we do it and how we make it better. We are determined and going after success yet again. We are still here--teachers, families, students. We are all sticking with it: for our futures and our children's futures.

And while I am not a psychologist (just an armchair optimist that has watched our school re-open its digital doors), I can see all of us working together for the success of our entire community. We are stronger — and grittier — together. Do you feel it? Because I certainly do.”

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