Developing school grit
MOUNT LAUREL – The key word at the education summit held March 24 was “grit.”
Although the 250 attendees included academics educators, social workers and psychologists, the word “grit” is not new educational jargon. It’s grit, in the common sense everyday use of the word. As in determination, tenacity, a refusal to give up.
As in, what children need to succeed when they grow up in poor neighborhoods where crime and drugs are common. Places like Camden City, where the Catholic Church maintains four grammar schools.
Grit is what teachers at those schools have to strive to help their students develop.
Dr. Angela Duckworth, associate professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, and a 2013 recipient of the MacArthur Fellow Genius Award, was the keynote speaker here at the Enterprise Center at Burlington County College for the Catholic Partnership Schools’ second annual Education Summit.
Her talk was on self-control – and grit.
She spoke of studies showing that world-class professionals, in such fields as sports and music, have been shown to “love performance, but not practice.”
“It is grit,” she argued, that helps them keep going, to reach excellence.
“Achievement is equal to talent and effort,” she said. “As teachers, you can display grit, and help student performance, in creating a culture of grit and deliberate practice.”
Camden leaders lending their support to the city’s teachers at the summit included Camden Mayor Dana Redd and J. Scott Thomson, Chief of the Camden County Police Department.
Mayor Redd talked about growing up in the Waterfront South section of Camden and losing her parents at a young age.
Her grandmother, who raised her, “taught me that education was the passport to the future. Education, and a foundation in faith, were non-negotiable. These were the core underpinnings of my child development,” she said.
The graduate of Sacred Heart School in South Camden and Bishop Eustace Prep in Pennsauken also credited “community and faith-based leaders who picked me up” after her parents died.
“We need you to continue” your work, she said. “Your impact is critical.”
Chief Thomson, a graduate of Gloucester Catholic High School, said he puts “an extreme value on the faith, discipline and skill set that (Catholic schools) instill upon the youth of our society, particularly the youth of the city of Camden.”
“At the end of the day, nothing stops a bullet like a job, and the best way to get a job is to have an education. It is about doing God’s work and helping all children.”
Catholic Partnership Schools helps educate and manage more than 1,000 children in four K-8 schools in Camden – St. Anthony of Padua, Holy Name, Sacred Heart and St. Joseph Pro-Cathedral – and one in Pennsauken, St. Cecilia.
“The day was very helpful,” said Elizabeth Lipinski, kindergarten teacher at Holy Name in North Camden. “Every student can achieve, no matter their environment. We need to keep them on the path to success. I’m thankful to have this summit.”