Dana Martin Writing

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Dana Martin Writing

Students and grit

A post from Schoolhouse Escapes

When I was in third grade, I can remember Mrs. Wagner making me repeat an entire cursive assignment because I looped the bottom of a lowercase “f” the wrong direction. I wasn’t the only one. She decided to stop the lesson and move to another assignment, promising we would work on “f” again the next day. And we did.

(Today’s time-crunched teachers can’t usually repeat lessons, but that is a different blog entry.)

I can’t say that my third-grade classmates and I learned grit that day, but looking back, I can surmise that SHE was demonstrating grit to us. It was important to Mrs. Wagner that we learned handwriting properly; to her, the reward was that the 8-year-olds in her charge would know how to loop a dang “f” the right way and grow up to write beautiful cursive that no one in the next generation would be able to read.

She had no way of seeing that coming.

I never knew the word “grit” back then, and I’ll even admit that I haven’t used it in my adult life until the last few weeks after meeting not one, but two local superintendents who both cited (weeks apart) that they love Schoolhouse Escapes because the program promotes grit.

I looked up the word grit – not in the dictionary sense, but I wanted to know what educators mean when they say kids struggle with it. And you know what I found? They are right. Our program does make kids use grit.

grit in studentsAnd then, just like THAT, everywhere I look are articles lamenting over today’s kids (and adults) lacking grit: Grit in schools, the workplace, and grit in (yes) haunted attraction construction. It appears that even adults want to stop the hard stuff and move on to something fun, even if that “something fun” doesn’t help finish the task they started.

If you’ve never seen a Schoolhouse Escapes game, this is how it works: The students are excited about opening the final container (that they can clearly see is locked up tighter than Fort Knox), but they must solve a series of (mostly math) puzzles to open other locks and containers that will eventually lead them to the fancy one they really want to open. No one will do the math for them; this is a competitive game, after all. They are motivated to check their answers, too, because the locks won’t open if the math is wrong.

They must do the hard stuff (the math) if they want to do the fun stuff (the treasure), and guess what? They do. They somehow persevere without ever realizing (or complaining, for the most part) that they had to do math to get there.

Maybe I need to write the puzzles using more difficult problems so they REALLY feel the pain of perseverance.

I know. I’ll write them in cursive.


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Dana Martin Writing

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Helping improve the world, one written word at a time.