Today’s Table Talk is by Kim Wargo, Head of School for the Hockaday School of Dallas, my alma mater. I was so impressed by the following article she wrote for an alumnae letter that I not only called to introduce myself, but also asked if I could guest post it on the moatblog. She graciously agreed.

I just loved her take on “grit”. That’s what our kids need, good old grit.  If you have the time, which I know most of us don’t, take a few minutes to watch the accompanying TED video. It’s very interesting.

Good stuff for girls … and guys!

Thanks for letting me barrel into your life, Kim – and for sharing. … and, as always, thanks for walking the road with me.


vintage recipe box

Every time I turn around, I’m reading new research that tells me something my mother ingrained into me as a child: hard work counts. It’s a lesson I’ve tried to teach my own students and my own child over the years. We can affect outcome through effort, diligence, and self-discipline.

As we think about our efforts to educate “the whole girl” at Hockaday, we have placed a tremendous emphasis on wellness. In addition to physical fitness and social-emotional well-being, we also want our girls to develop resilience or “grit.” This important characteristic may be one of the key predictors of a healthy, successful life.

Angela Duckworth, an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, is the author of several studies on self-discipline and academic achievement. In her widely touted research, Duckworth has found that self-discipline is a greater predictor of academic performance in adolescents than IQ. Duckworth has furthered this research with a longitudinal study on the “Grit” factor. She and her colleagues have asked the question, “Why do some individuals accomplish more than others of equal intelligence?” Their answer: “Grit” (and, no, despite my southern roots, we’re not talking about a corn dish served for breakfast).

Grit, Duckworth argues, is “perseverance and passion for long-term goals” and requires “working strenuously toward challenges [and] maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress.” In other words, when the going gets tough (or boring), the “gritty individual” gets going.

The big question, then, for parents and educators is this: Can Grit be taught? Duckworth’s research resonates with much of the recent buzz about the importance of effort, including Carol Dweck’s work on fixed and growth mindsets. Dweck has certainly given us a starting point for thinking about effort praise versus ability praise as a precursor for developing a growth mindset. We might also think about the importance of failure and even boredom in developing resilience.

Perhaps through teaching our children that achievement is a marathon rather than a sprint; we can grow “gritty girls.”

Kim Wargo, Head of School

Kim Wargo grew up in Louisiana and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Louisiana State University, graduating summa cum laude.  In 1993, she earned a master’s degree from Tulane University in history.  This is her first year at Hockaday, coming from the Katherine Delmar Burke School, in San Francisco, where she served as Head of School.  Previously, Ms. Wargo was the Head of Upper School at the Louise S. McGehee School, a girls’ school in New Orleans.
Founded in 1913, Hockaday is an independent, college preparatory day and boarding school for girls. Comprised of more than 1,000 students of diverse backgrounds and cultures, Hockaday educates girls from pre-kindergarten to twelfth grade and is the largest girls’ school in the nation.
Angela Duckworth’s TED talk on grit:
Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (New York: Ballantine Books, 2006).

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