The way we think about educating children and preparing them for their future is changing. Information that you can learn from a textbook is not enough. Students' ability to be resilient in the learning environment is critical for their success in school and beyond. Qualities such as curiosity, grit, and passion are critical for success in the 21st century and need to be key components of the curriculum.
When students are highly engaged in their academic environment, you will often find curiosity, grit, and passion working their magic and often, working together. These are characteristics that help students succeed not only at school but also at life. Here's why:
Curiosity = Exploration
Curiosity is more than what killed the cat. It’s the natural human drive to understand the world around us, to inquire into the nature of things. Curiosity has been the basis of countless discoveries, both scientific and personal, and is the driving force behind creative endeavors. Curious learning animates the best parts of our nature, seeking knowledge for its own sake.
One way to nurture this concept in students is to make learning interesting. Rather than “teaching to the test,” encourage young minds to experience for themselves what’s going on. Curious students become knowledgeable adults, ones who can creatively solve not only their own problems but the world's as well. Children are born curious, and too often institutions work hard to rub that out. Fortunately, there are schools that take the opposite approach, encouraging curiosity and making sure its rewards are understood by our students.
Grit = Effort
When discipline and resilience meet up to produce an outcome, that’s where you’ll find grit. It’s the undaunted work ethic, the striving to be better that animates every great learner. It helps us keep our emotions in check and gives us the heart to keep going when we’re tired.
We see students who are willing to struggle with new ideas and concepts and don’t mind letting people know the effort it takes to learn a new concept or task. In the face of academic challenges, they persevere, believing that they will eventually master the material. These students exhibit persistence in the face of difficulty, or “grit.”
Grit is built by setting, working toward and achieving goals. It’s a chance for students to achieve what may seem impossible: giving a speech, mastering a second language, understanding Shakespeare, solving challenging math problems. We understand that dealing with frustration is difficult for anyone, and especially students. Working through the hard times, however, is the best way to become independent learners and develop real-world skills. As educators, we push our students through difficult spots and encourage them to keep going when things get tough.
Passion = Accomplishment
When we say passion, we mean a real zeal for life. Passionate people draw others toward them. Passionate teachers reach students in new and innovative ways and engage their imaginations as well as their minds. Whether it's in the community or the classroom, they believe that anything worth doing should be done passionately.
Passionate learners are engaged learners. They curiously seek knowledge and persevere in their explorations. Their passion grows from a place of absorbed interest and personal identity. When a student is passionate about sports, they train hard. When they're passionate about education, they study ferociously. When they're passionate about school, they succeed.
In the real world, there is little celebration of "easy." Things that are fun, or simply interesting and engaging don't lead to the sense of accomplishment that results from a difficult challenge. As educators, we need to create safe environments that encourage students to set goals that stretch their abilities, and, at times risk failure. That means supporting curiosity, valuing grit, and modeling passion.
Want to learn more about how to engage students at the middle school and high school level? Check out our comprehensive resource on the power of experiential learning: Beyond the Desk.