Saturday, September 28, 2019

High Expectations in Action

One of the characteristics we work on with our students is GRIT.  Actually, we use that as an acronym for Gumption, Resiliency, Integrity, and Tenacity.  We talk about having a growth mindset and facing new challenges with the mentality of..."I can't do that...Yet!".  

Recently, some of our students had an opportunity to demonstrate GRIT and growth mindset as they delivered the keynote address at the division's Convocation program.  These six students, who are now 7th graders at Smithfield Middle, were in my math class last year at Westside Elementary.  Back then, I shared my expectations with them on presenting in front of their classmates.  When the day came for their first presentations, they were, how can I say this,.......they were bad.  Some were a little better than others, but they all needed a lot of work.  Some had their back to their class and talked into the whiteboard.  Others were too quiet, or spoke too fast, or didn't make eye contact with the audience. 

I was honest with the feedback I gave them, which is important for improvement.  So often adults will tell them "Good job" when, really, it wasn't a good job.  I told them I didn't expect them to be great with their presentations--yet! But I knew they could get there with practice and kind, specific, and helpful feedback.

Flash forward to May as my staff and I were discussing a keynote speaker for our Convocation program in August.  This was it!  What better test of GRIT and growth mindset than speaking in front of an audience. 

The six students I selected were not necessarily the best presenters but I knew they would commit to this project.  I knew they could do this, but some of them were not as confident.  I worked with them for a few days in May and June, and brought them back together for a few more practices in August.  They knew at any time during the practice I could stop them and give them feedback.  They were not going to hear "good job" unless it truly was good work.  I was impressed at the pride they had in their performance and how eager they were to hear feedback that only made their delivery better. 

On the day of Convocation, there were some nerves (including from me as well) but there was a tremendous amount of excitement.  I told them how much I loved them and how proud I already was of them.  I knew they were ready, but how would they do?  Would they crumple in front of over 500 teachers and staff?  Or would they nail it?

See for yourself.  Remember--these are 7th graders in front of an auditorium full of adults, and they were doing all of their lines from memory.  This is growth mindset and GRIT, and it's exactly what we should expect of our students every day.