Last week I visited a high school in which every teacher had posted in their classroom a large sign that said "Keep calm and have guts."

When I asked students and teachers what this poster meant to each of them, they unanimously said it meant they needed to practice grit and determination. Teachers at this school continually encouraged students to persevere through difficult academic, civic and social situations both in and out of the classroom. It is this fostering of grit, they argued, that would best prepare their students for the real world.

Using Thomas Hoerr's recently-published ASCD book "Fostering Grit" for inspiration, blogger and online educator Andrew Miller offers educators "Five Steps to Foster Grit in the Classroom."

  • Model grit in the classroom to help students understand and better relate to the concept
  • Do not grade formative assessments that might punish students for making mistakes
  • Look for ways to bring authenticity into the classroom
  • Embed ongoing revision and reflection into the instructional practices for students
  • Continually celebrate success when students persevere

A study released last month by the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) concludes what many of us in education already suspected: Schools that regularly engage in deeper learning strategies and student-centered practices will see an increase in academic achievement.

The study followed schools that were using a model from either the Linked Learning Alliance or Envision Schools, both of which have demonstrated evidence in developing high levels of proficiency for minority and low-income students. These schools consistently promoted a school culture whereby students would develop the grit and determination to keep working through challenges and obstacles.

Other common school culture traits that these schools shared were as follows: They were committed to personalized learning; they were built on positive teacher-student relationships; and they were grounded in reflection and revision.

In an age of accountability, school leaders must find better ways to maintain a positive school culture. Doing so will bolster school morale and allow the school to continue to make growth year to year.

In his article "Learning to Drive the Bus: 5 Ways to Build a Positive School Culture," author Jon Gordon provides school leaders with five things they must do in order to improve their school's culture:

  • Remain positive in all that you do
  • Build a positive leadership team around you of motivated stakeholders in the school community
  • Develop a fleet of "bus drivers" — stakeholders who believe in the school's positive vision and are willing to share it with everyone
  • "Tend to the roots of the tree" and don't get bogged down with test scores, budgets and other short-term results
  • Look for ways to continually weed out negativity in the school community

Following these steps with grit and determination, Gordon argues, will allow school leaders to make positivity and grit contagious for everyone in the school community.