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Keys to Students’ Success: Resilience, Grit, Passion

Most of the sessions I attended avoided the hot-button debates of high-stakes testing, teacher evaluations and charter schools that tend to dominate the discussion. Instead, they reflected what seems to be a growing consensus that high-poverty schools’ most important job is to help their students feel safe and calm enough to learn.

There was a showing of the documentary film Paper Tigers, which details one year at a school in Washington state with a particular focus on trauma-centered education. It was able to help its students toward remarkable progress by consciously building students’ resilience in the face of toxic stress in their lives.

The film was released in 2015 and has attracted a lot of attention; there was a showing in Rochester to a group of professionals in education, social work and psychology. I plan to write more about toxic stress, the film and its thesis.

Another term you’re likely to hear among educators these days is “grit.” University of Pennsylvania professor Angela Duckworth was at the conference to discuss her book of that title. Grit, she argues, is the psychological element that separates students who succeed from those who don’t, particularly in difficult conditions.