Sunday, November 15, 2015

Vigor Over Rigor, Wit Over Grit?

A hot term right now in education is rigor.  Here's another one, grit.  Every current researcher, social scientist, data miner, etc. is in on the rigor/grit game.  I buy it.  It makes a lot of sense, especially in the mindset arena. To me, rigor is the effort needed to persevere to pursue a goal even when faced with adversity.  We were cheerleading all over the place, "Rah, rah, rigor, grit, hooray!" Then, I read an article perusing the fact that maybe socioeconomic status is a huge factor in determining the amount of rigor/grit needed and the ability to overcome some extreme circumstances.  That makes rigor unbalanced and difficult to both define and emulate.

A new thought occurred to me.  Really, students need vigor, not rigor and ready for this... wit, not only grit.  To vigorously pursue a goal is both definable and reproducible.  That is what we need for all students regardless of socioeconomic status, ability level, resources, etc.

To pursue a goal with 'vigor' creates the ultimate conditions for success.  Look at the definitions below (from  What do you notice?

1. strictness, severity, or harshness, as in dealing with people.
2. the full or extreme severity of laws, rules, etc.
3. severity of living conditions; hardship; austerity:
the rigor of wartime existence.
4. a severe or harsh act, circumstance, etc.
5. scrupulous or inflexible accuracy or adherence:
the logical rigor of mathematics.
6. severity of weather or climate or an instance of this:
the rigors of winter.
7. Pathology. a sudden coldness, as that preceding certain fevers; chill.
8. Physiology. a state of rigidity in muscle tissues during which they are unable to respond to stimuli due to the coagulation of muscle protein.
9. Obsolete. stiffness or rigidity.
1. active strength or force.
2. healthy physical or mental energy or power; vitality.
3. energetic activity; energy; intensity:
The economic recovery has given the country a new vigor.
4. force of healthy growth in any living matter or organism, as a plant.
5. active or effective force, especially legal validity.
Rigor seems quite negative, painful, and unrewarding.  Vigor seems active, positive, and energetic.   Using one's wits is the street smarts part of learning and growing.

Here is a similar comparison of grit and wit:

2.firmness of character; indomitable spirit; pluck:


1.the keen perception and cleverly apt expression of those connections between ideas that awaken amusement and pleasure.
2.speech or writing showing such perception and expression.
3.a person having or noted for such perception and expression.
4.understanding, intelligence, or sagacity; astuteness.
5.Usually, wits.
-powers of intelligent observation, keen perception, ingenious contrivance, or the like; mental acuity, composure, and resourcefulness:
-using one's wits to get ahead.
-mental faculties; senses.

Grit and wit show the same difference in viewpoint yet moving toward a more growth lens - albeit less dramatic than rigor and vigor. 

This is what we need to instill in our future students.  It's not college and career readiness.  It's LIFE readiness.  These qualities in current and future students will change the systems we now see at "the way things are".  

Maybe it is not impossible to imagine some of these future "problem-finders" (Pink, 2012) to initiate and grow change.  Will it be slow?  Maybe.  But it may happen at rocket speed.  We cannot know until we let go of the antiquated teach a program geared to a test, prep toward the test, test.  Rinse, lather, repeat.  This is not real data.  It is useless data.  

Our movement needs to go to more individualization, a prescription for each child molded through professionals who know child growth and development best. That prescription should be constantly changing as the student changes. Many professionals should be collaborating on each student's needs.  We should be sharing best practices and constantly revisiting our comfort zones. 

It sounds very complicated and more easily said than done.  We have to start somewhere.  And at the moment, we are going in the completely wrong direction, opposite actually. I do also believe that this will require all terms - rigor, vigor, grit, and wit! Undoing this damage will take time. But it should not take the place of moving forward simultaneously. 

Politics needs to give education back to the experts.  After all, no one gets into teaching for the money or the fame!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Farewell again... 'til next year - for them

August 10, 2002 - August 26, 2002

To give an answer 
to my own unending questions, 
for peace of a piece of daily living, 
to walk in this world most of the time,
and the alternate universe when forced.

     You are everything I could ever idealize
          in my 13 year old daughter
               And nothing I will ever get to nurture.

So, Madison Joan, 
farewell again.
I give your name to 
as many lips today as I can

'til next year - 
for them - 
'til tonight yet sooner for me.

All my love,


Monday, August 10, 2015

Desire for teenage angst, in memory

Madison Joan Friel August 10, 2002 to August 26, 2002

Desire for Teenage Angst

Would your hair be spiral spun curls
but the color of golden sand like your brother
Would you have my green eyes
but blissfully so trusting and unhurt
Would your skin be as fair as new, crisp paper
and as smooth as tempered glass
"Snoft," my mom used to say
as she swept the back of her hand along my cheek
with a whiff of Shalimar

Would you hate me but not know why
morphing into the independent teen you have begun to explore
Would you secretly tell me everything if I swore -
from the sun to the moon to the stars and back again -
that I would never tell anyone ever
That you would even think of sharing with your mom
So uncool


Would you still be my baby love
wondering what all this emotional drama around you was about
glad somehow that you seem to feel you had escaped
for now

Are you a tv watcher or music listener
Is your head stuck in the phone like the others
Are you an old soul
Are you into "real" books with pages and "records" and the like
or do you like everything new, now, unique

Would you love to write deeply or surfacely or satirically or girly
or at all
Would you prefer sweets like me
or spicy like daddy
Would you wear some bad throwback era clothes like the eighties - ew
or would you wear some good throwback era clothes like the seventies - cool

Could I do your nails
Could I do your hair
Would you shop with me
Would you be a force with me against the boys
"Girls' Club"
Would you be my girl, forever and ever
no matter what?

No answer... still no answer... that's what it is.
Constant questions, never answers.
13 years.
No matter what.

On what would be your 13th birthday, Madison Joan Friel,
I still wake up thinking of you every morning
and go to sleep with you every night.

With love,