Talent or Grit?

I’ve been spending a lot of my time developing my approach to teaching resilience, grit and determination. It is hard, first of all, to find the time in the school timetable to be able to make time for teaching this. It is harder (even still) to teach it effectively!

As teachers, it is important to not only develop a child’s academic and creative sides – but to also give children the tools they need to achieve as close to their potential as possible.

When teaching my class, I often consider life skills.

The skills I was never taught at school.

Often it is a small comment or choosing to be kind, sometimes it is about discussing why it is important to practice your spellings. That is probably a good place to start.

The learning of spellings!

I am constantly explaining to my class that it is vitally important to be able to spell (at least)  the majority of words which we use regularly in our vocabulary. Some people may disagree with me, but I believe a basic ability to spell is vital.

I explain the importance of practising as much as possible, and how you won’t get any better at the spellings unless you do so. I usually get the same response:

‘oh but she never practices and always gets them right!’

This year I have changed the way I answer this rhetoric. I go through the varieties of children, and how they learn (without being specific!) their spellings.

  1. The children who just can spell, no practising, gets them all right (or almost), all the time in a test situation

I explain to my class, if you are one of these types of learners then you have either already put in the hard work to learn the spelling patterns, or you just have a lucky talent for the spelling of the English language. But that you need to keep working hard to develop your ability to spell, as their vocabulary gets trickier moving into high school they may find that their natural talent for spelling starts to diminish.

2. The children who do or don’t have specific learning difficulties, but find spelling            doesn’t come naturally, and who practice how to spell them religiously. These children    often do as well as the children in the first category.

I explain to my class, if you are one of these types of learners then you have an innate determination, grit and resilience, to notice that you either are driven to always know how to spell these words and want to score high in spelling tests. Or it means, you recognise that spelling is a weakness of yours, and you are desperate to achieve and improve your weakness. These children, I explain, have an attitude that we all need in our life in certain situations – but I’ll speak more on that later.

3. The children who never practice, and don’t have a natural talent for spelling.

I explain to my class, if you are one of these types of learners then it could be for a number of reasons. Perhaps you feel that despite any amount of practice, you’ll never get better at your spellings. Perhaps you just simply don’t want to learn to spell any better. I try to highlight how spelling is important in life, but, most recently, discussed how I am completely talent-less when it comes to sewing. I have no desire to get any better at sewing, but it has no relevance in my life. I am no good at sewing, but have no need to get better at it so do to spend my time getting better!

Learning how to spell, to the best of their ability, is important in their lives.

I am starting to see changing attitudes not only in spellings but having these constant mini-resilience discussions. Discussing how we start to recognise what we need and want in life, and how we are going to get there.

A boy in my class, who works incredibly hard but is severely dyslexic and therefore is constantly working to compensate for this. In front of the class, he said he had used resilience in regards to his football. He plays a lot of football, and at a good standard at the weekend. He said that although he enjoyed playing in defence, and that he knew he was good at it, he wanted to know why coaches never played him higher up the pitch. He said, he had come to realise it was because he wasn’t very good at taking the ball past other defenders – and had noticed the other players in his team could. So he asked his coaches what he could do to improve, studied endless wing play on youtube and in text books, and worked tirelessly in training and the park to improve his weakness. He said his coaches have commented they have seen a big improvement, and now he is getting more opportunities further up the pitch in matches.

He knew what he wanted.

He used self-discovery and asked coaches, to discover how to get there.

He got to work, and committed himself to getting better.

I was blown away by his story, and it allowed for a bit of added discussion. The boys in my class (like most in the country) tell me how they are going to be a professional footballer when they are older. I tagged onto the end of this boy’s story the following.

‘That is incredible, to recognise what you wanted and how to get there – and then get well on road to achieving what you wanted, allowing you to see your hard work start to pay off. I find with footballers your age, most of all boys, that they all want to be professionals. It is one thing being a talented footballer, like I know you are, but it is another thing entirely being able to develop your skills using your own grit and resilience. That is the kind of trait needed to become a professional in any form. Ask any person who has reached the top of their career, such as a premier league footballer, they will all say the same. Your attitude to getting better, is the only way you will get there.

You don’t get anything through simply hoping it’ll work out for you. Want to be rich? Unless you are the luckiest person alive and win the lottery, it won’t happen for you unless you push your self, your brain, your body to the limits and reach your potential. You are in control of your futures, you can overcome any problems in front of you.

Ask people who can help if you can’t see how, but ultimately you have to want to not give up.’

There is a growing body of recent evidence to show that grit and resilience is a far more important trait in achieving anything, compared to talent. This has however been suggested for many years, with Charles Darwin insisting talent was not a prerequisite for success.

Teach your children that they can reach their potential in what they want, if they really want it, recognise how to do it, and DO IT.

How do you develop grit in the classroom?



I do not discuss the different types of learners in a negative way, and when discussing with the class about the different ways of leaning, I have different children who excel in different parts of school life. They are celebrated in the same way!

Everyone has a talent in my class, but everyone needs to know they can always better themselves!

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