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  • Writer's pictureBrad Gay

Are you a Gritty School?



The word GRIT has an impact on people because the narrative of persistence and striving that it represents is understood by teachers, students and parents. Angela Duckworth uses "Grit." Grit, Duckworth explains, is perseverance for long term goals over a long period. It requires perseverance and unwavering strides towards the goal over time. Check out www.ted.com and do a search on Duckworth to see her talk.

Gritty schools are all about developing this perseverance and inner resilience in their students over their time at school and on into the future. I encourage schools to develop their own words and phrases to help students get through the inevitable tough times that they experience.


Some schools I work with are working towards developing a character continuum that students can reflect back on. It relates to their key School Values and gives students a mark for their values. The mark itself isn’t important, what is, is that the students see progress towards displaying the school values.The students rate themselves first and then reflect with their teacher on their marks and the teachers subsequent marks. They then choose three key areas to improve on from their character assessment. These goals are taken up and then reflected back to the student when they go about their day to day learning. The idea is for this area to develop over time. Students see that like intelligence, character skills can be taught to help them develop the Grit to succeed long after their education at school has past.

There are seven key areas to creating resiliency within children. Michael Gross outlines them below:

1. Coping

Resilient students use a variety of simple coping strategies such as humour, relaxation, normalisation and acceptance when they experience social or personal hardships.

Language of coping: “You’ve got to laugh!” “You will get through this!” “Some things you just can’t change!” “Everyone feels that way sometimes.”

2. Courage

Resilient children and young people take learning and social risks, and know that things won’t always go their way. Rejection and failure aren’t taken personally.

Language of courage: “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” “Take a smart risk.” “You've got to develop the courage to be imperfect.”

3. Persistence

The ability to keep persevering in the face of difficulty is a characteristic of resilience that leads to success in the classroom, on the sports field or other fields of endeavour, in the schoolyard and beyond.

Language of persistence: “Have another go.” “Hang tough!” “Push through the hard stuff to get the rewards.”


4. Relationships

Resilient kids are able develop and maintain strong relationships with a number of peers over time. They are supportive of others ; they can handle common conflict situations and don’t take rejection personally.

Language of relationships: “Is that how a good friend acts?” “Who have you spoken to about this?” “It’s not all about you!”

5. Thinking

Children may not be able to control a situation, but they can control how they look at, and think about an event. Resilient kids look for the positive side in negative situations, and see negative events as temporary. Reframing, remaining flexible and using realistic language are common resilience traits.

Language of resilient thinking: “Look on the bright side.” “Let’s look at this another way?” “It’s not a disaster. It’s just unpleasant!” “Where does this fit on the disaster scale?”

6. Problem-solving

Resilient children and young people have feelings of personal competence that come from resolving their problems and challenges. This develops the expectation that they can overcome fresh challenges, just as they have in the past.

Language of problem-solving: “How can you work this out?” “What’s the first step?” “Let’s set some goals together.”


7. Learning

Resilient children and young people learn from negative situations, and importantly develop greater awareness of their own strengths. Self-knowledge is perhaps the best knowledge of all that we can impart to children.

Language or learning: “What have you learned for next time?” “You’ve learned a lot about yourself.” “You’re more capable than you think.”

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