Grit-ty Heroes

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“Grit” is a popular term in educational circles today, particularly with helping students succeed.

Grit is “passion and perseverance for very long-term goals,” “having stamina,” and “sticking with your future day-in day-out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years.”

I got those “gritty” quotes from the following TED Talk video with Angela Lee Duckworth, and you should watch the entire thing (about six minutes).

 

In the world of superheroes, “grit” has a much different meaning.  During the late 1980s and early 1990s, “grim and gritty” superheroes nearly saturated the comic book market.  If you’re interested, you can read a thorough analysis of this time period HERE.

“Grim and gritty” got so popular it seemed almost everyone got in on the act–Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, even Aquaman!

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Coming to theaters near you!

 

Thankfully, most of these heroes’ gritty phases were short-lived and brighter days returned.  For some heroes (or anti-heroes), however, it’s always been about grim and grit:  The Punisher, Ghost Rider, Wolverine, and about 87% of Image Comics from the 1990s.  Exhibits A-to-Xtreme below . . .

 

Given the above definition of “grit,” I would argue that the grittiest superhero is Captain America.

 

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Remember, Steve Rodgers stood up to evil and injustice while he was still a 98-pound weakling.  His heart and passion did not change after he gained powers and a costume.  At times, Steve has given up or lost the title of Captain America. But he continued his work behind the scenes and/or assuming another superhero identity.

We’ve already gotten a glimpse that Steve’s non-Captain America heroics will appear in upcoming Avengers movies:

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(He’s even got a beard – extra grit!)

 

At the time of the TED Talk video, not much was known about teaching and cultivating grit in students.  Nevertheless, you can find research summaries HERE and HERE, which also include resources and tools for student grittification*.

*Trademark 2017, Daniel J. Bergman

In the video, Duckworth refers to research of Carol Dweck on “growth mindset” as one potential factor in teaching grit.  This is a good place to start.

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For example, HERE is one of Dr. Dweck’s articles (“The Perils and Promises of Praise”) that discusses the impact of teacher praise on students’ motivation and self-concept.  All teachers should read this article, since 1) it is short, and 2) it has direct application in the classroom. In other words, it won’t take a lot of grit. But you should stop and think about how you respond to students, and what other messages are conveyed in your words.

And this is just one step. As explained near the end of the TED Talk video, teachers who want gritty students must also be gritty themselves.

Don’t let grit become one more educational fad that passes away.

 

 

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Extreme Makeovers

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new gr with car

Marvel Comics is redesigning Ghost Rider for an upcoming series, which you can read about here (courtesy of http://www.newsarama.com).

Personally, I think the new digs look like the Japanese manga/anime series Bleach more than any American comic book hero/anti-hero.   See the resemblance?

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I see that both Bleach’s “Soul Reaper” and the Ghost Rider’s “Spirit of Vengeance” may need some ointment.  Or maybe some Maybelline.

This latest superhero redesign has inspired Newsarama writers to revisit their list of Top 10 Superhero Extreme Makeovers–The Good, the Bad, and the Super Ugly.

Superhero makeovers typically last less than a year before the hero/heroine returns to his/her iconic design.  Usually, the change coincides with a slight bump in sales and fan interest (or outrage) before things return to normal (i.e. Electro-Superman, Beard-n-Hook-Aquaman).

superman makeover                    aquaman makeover

Have you noticed any parallel with teaching yet?

Fads come and go, but quality teachers base their decisions on well-founded research and well-grounded application.

For those superheroes whose costume changes DO last for decades (and beyond), it’s typically because the original design was somehow incomplete or inconsistent with the true nature of the character (see Green Arrow, Daredevil).  Or maybe something didn’t click with the readers.  (When I see the original yellow/red DD, I don’t think hero.  I think hot dog.)

greenarrow makeover                      daredevil makeover

Unfortunately, some teachers are in dire need of an extreme makeover.  Perhaps they were insufficiently prepared, or they’ve developed some bad habits as the years go by.  Or maybe they just lost their passion.

How about you?

Do you need an extreme makeover?  (Move that bus!  Move that BUS!)

Not just change for change’s sake.  Don’t settle for a surface-level image update that will last  only a season.  Instead, challenge yourself to seriously reflect on your practice and its impact on students.  Search for any rough spots needing a revision.

The best teachers always GET BETTER.

And the best “change for the better” is the kind that remains for the years–and students–to come.