Why “Grit” Sometimes Doesn’t Cut It

written by: Eagle Hill School
You’ve probably heard the term “grit” thrown around a lot recently in relation to teaching and raising successful students. Grit is the new buzzword, synonymous with perseverance, passion, happiness, and success. But, it might not cut it for students with learning disabilities.

The grit movement suggests that students can be taught to control their impulses, push themselves in the face of adversity, and ultimately overcome setbacks. Although this rigid approach might work for some students, those with learning disabilities should be encouraged to approach problems more organically, with an eye towards the systems and methods that work best for them as individual learners.

In many ways, students with learning disabilities demonstrate an incredibly high level of “grit.” They have to learn to think differently, to approach problems strategically, and to focus on their goals in a way that works for them. Pushing through when a learning style or experience is not working for them will only exacerbate any problems they may be having.

Students with learning disabilities often think out of the box. They approach problems with a unique mindset, and think differently from others. For this reason, simply “toughening up” or “persevering” might not be the goal at all.

Students with learning disabilities should be encouraged to think critically when they encounter a problem and to actually change course when the way they are going isn’t working.

Rather than focusing on “grit,” let’s focus on empowering our students and letting them discover what they do best, and pursue it in the way that works best for them. A few things to remember when taking this approach:
  • Don’t rush to the rescue. A substantial part of students finding their own success comes from letting them fail. This may sound harsh, but letting your students make their own mistakes, to a degree, will help them find their way.
  • Encourage uniqueness. Create an atmosphere that fosters your child’s unique and developing capabilities, not one that only favors hard work and determination.
  • Remind them of their strengths. Remind students that, in their own way, they HAVE shown grit. In fact, it has taken grit just to get where they are. Realizing that they do possess these qualities will help reframe the idea of “grit” as something that is different for each person, not just the idea of “toughening up.”
Instead of pushing through with a cookie cutter approach that isn’t working, LD students should be encouraged to look at the problem differently, to think outside of the box, and to find a method that works with their unique learning style. For a student with a learning disability, abandoning one route or approach might actually be a victory - especially if it leads to the discovery of a more effective approach for their unique learning style.

What is Learning Diversity About?

Learning Diversity is a blog hosted by Eagle Hill School where educators, students, and other members of the LD community regularly contribute posts and critical essays about learning and living in spaces that privilege the inevitability of human diversity.

The contributors of Learning Diversity come together to engage our readers from a variety of disciplines, including the humanities, social sciences, biological sciences and mathematics, athletics, and residential life. Embracing learning diversity means understanding and respecting our students as whole persons.

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