"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Monday, October 28, 2013

Slice of Life: On the Qualities of Grit and Perseverance

In last week's Slice, I wrote about words bantering about in my head. A funny expression, but it captures what it feels like as words are tossed about and then explored, expressed, and considered. There are words and phrases that keep pushing their way to the front of the queue, insistent that I pay attention. Grit and perseverance are two such words.

A few weeks back, I heard Barbara Stripling, ALA President, speak eloquently and passionately about school librarianship. Among the inspiring and thought-provoking ideas she shared was this one, "Help foster the attitudes essential for success - self confidence, grit, and perseverance."

Two weeks later, I heard Jarrett Krosoczka use the same words when speaking about his own writing journey and encouraging a room full of young writers.

I had been ruminating over Barbara Stripling's message.  Those pesky words grit and perseverance were being true to themselves! I couldn't tuck them away.  Then, to hear Jarrett pull them out, was fuel for their fire.  I held onto those two words, but kept pushing them aside, not quite sure how to respond.

I was thinking about my own children and my parenting.  Had I helped foster these qualities in my children?  I think so. I hope so. They have both had to face some tough situations and have both handled them well. When matters like grades did not meet their expectations, they took the initiative to meet with teachers and kept applying themselves. They do not give up easily.

These thoughts are taking up valuable real estate in my brain, but I have nowhere to go with them, so there they sit, until last Tuesday.

Last Tuesday, I was exploring illustrations in a book and practicing visual literacy skills with some kindergarten students.  Now, like all teachers, I have tried to create a learning environment where all learners are safe and where I feel I can encourage my students to take risks. A student raised his hand to answer a question about the time of year that the story takes place. His answer was the wrong season.  I asked, "Tell me why you think it is summer?"  The student responded and I praised him for his thought process and asked for another student to share his or her response and hoped to get a different answer.  Should I have let the first child work with it for a while longer? Should I have asked some guiding questions?

Am I fostering grit and perseverance? I am not so sure.

Fast forward to yesterday, when I was up in my attic (trying to make room for a rug) when I came upon one of the boxes of my old school work. (I wouldn't qualify for hoarders, but I do have quite a few of my childhood items.) When I come across one of these boxes, I have to stop and look and read and reflect and remember.

There it was. Right in front of me.  Grit. Perseverance.

I wonder how much these experiences for the 10 and 11 year old me influenced the adult me, who stays up until all hours writing and editing and obsessing and changing and rewriting.  It is hard to look back at proof that I was not always as diligent, careful and driven.  I wonder how much these experiences fostered grit and perseverance and made me the diligent, (reasonably) careful, and (fairly) driven person I am today?  Not that I have any answers and doing it correctly!  I'm still trying to figure this writing thing out and it sure does require a lot of grit and perseverance.
I still talk about Rabbit Hill. :)

I think comments like the ones above
would not have meant so much 
without the comments below...

 Gosh did I love those Cs.

 Look: self-assessment!

Where do I end up?  Well, with a little more real estate in my brain and a little less bantering about by two specific words, but still a bit puzzled.  I think the authentic, straight forward comments of my teachers worked well for me, but would not work well for others.  In terms of my students, I plan to continue to provide a safe learning environment where students can take risks, but I'll be looking for ways to foster grit and perseverance in my school library one day at a time. 


Every Tuesday, Ruth and Stacey, host think it is Slice of Life at their blog, Two Writing TeachersIf you want to participate, you can link up at their Slice of Life Story Post on Tuesdays or you can just head on over there to check out other people's stories. 

For more information on what a Slice of Life post is about, go here.


  1. It's hard to know if we're fostering grit and perseverance when we're in the thick of things, isn't it? I hope it's something I'm imparting to my daughter who is nearing three. I think I am, but how can I really be sure?

    1. I don't think we can know until the time comes when we and our children need these qualities.

  2. grit and perseverance...it is all of our lives I think...I enjoyed hearing your story xo

    1. It is, but I worry that some of today's children/students don't get a chance to practice using these qualities.

  3. Grit and perseverance--the Finns even have a word for it: SISU! I tried to install it in my daughter, and it has been tested in my life time many times. I want to install it in my students as well. Still trying to figure that out.

    1. When one of us does, let's be sure to share!

  4. I really love that you're questioning & questioning about all this, & figuring out answers meaningful for you. Just read Hatchet with a group & posted about it last week-traits needed to survive: Paulsen, in the story, says the best thing you've got is yourself! We had great conversations about perseverance, etc. thanks for the good thoughts!

    1. Thank you! If you have food picture book ideas for these types of themes, please share!

  5. I enjoyed seeing your old school work and knowing those small comments meant a lot.