Cultivating Grit in our Children: Characteristics for Success

September 21, 2018- September’s  “Coffee & Conversation with Mr. Gordon” wasCultivating Grit in our Children: Characteristics for Success” .  The discussion focused on what it means to make our students resilient and the school’s role in providing an effective environment.

“The importance of experiencing failure,” said Mr. Gordon, “is in building resiliency.  If a student forgets their sports uniform and we as parents bring it to them, it prevents them from developing  a sense of responsibility and experiencing the consequences. Students need to fall and experience failure as youth so they learn how to recover from these things throughout life.”

The word “failure” isn’t typically what a head of school might lead with. But parents didn’t just shake their heads in agreement, they eagerly shared their inspiring stories. Together they talked about the invaluable lessons of success that can only be learned through pushing past all levels of failures. “We need to allow youth to make their own decisions so they can learn to provide for themselves and develop important skills,” Mr. Gordon added.

The conversation moved on to how the school assesses student proficiencies.  “We want to focus on the love of learning and not just a grade” said the head of school. “That’s why we use rubrics, standards and  benchmarks to evaluate how well students comprehend and learn. We have professional learning communities now to help make these assessments.” To exemplify,  Mr. Gordon cited how all the Humanities teachers are given the same piece of student writing to individually evaluate and grade and to look at what a student did well and what they still need to do.  “This rubric,” he noted, “is much more instructive than just a grade with some comments inked in red. Simply providing grades doesn’t really help identify issues”, he emphasised. “While grades are important, the rubrics we use actually help us go deeper into how kids are really doing.

“You don’t learn when you get it right, just when you get it wrong,” remarked one parent.  She appreciates that students are given opportunities to make corrections in math, in order to learn from their mistakes.  She noted it’s not like that in other subjects. Curriculum Coordinator Lauren Kreisberger eagerly addressed the point. “With writing for example, teachers provide consistent coaching from beginning to end, in creating a finished product.  They teach and guide students, suggesting different perspectives and encouraging them with ideas while giving feedback.” So while it may not always be realistic to take a second pass at all the work students do, ultimately the result is the same. It  just requires a different method.

Self advocacy was another important part of the discussion.  “It’s important to teach a child how to advocate for themselves.  We need to help them learn how to write an email, and encourage them to come to us before school or after school,” said Mr. Gordon. “Students need to know how to interview, how to shake a hand, and to look the person they are talking to in the eye,” added Lauren Kreisberger. When students graduate from Pardes, they have been given the skills to become confident, conversant and competent in advocating for themselves and leaving  positive and lasting impressions that last a lifetime.