Laura Sandefer

February 18, 2020

“I’m not sure I can do this – it’s so hard! I love it!”
These words will be music to my ears. My children may not be the smartest, most athletic or best looking in the room but for them to be gritty will trump it all for me.
Through grit, they will find the ecstasy of flow; they will experience one of their interests turning into a lifelong passion; and they will feel the sublime joy of authentic, hard-earned achievement.
I want this for myself, too.
The problem is that grit does not come naturally – to me or to them.
So how will we get it?
One path to grit is through “deliberate practice” as described by Angela Duckworth in her bestseller, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.” It includes:

  • A clearly defined stretch goal
  • Full concentration and effort
  • Immediate and informative feedback
  • Repetition with reflection and refinement.

Over lunch last Friday, 71 Acton parents decided to be role models for our children and pick one thing to practice deliberately.
Here is my gritty goal: Apple Pie.
I fear baking apple pie.
Seventeen years ago, I went to cooking school. I had an authoritarian, tsk-ing pastry chef as a teacher. One day she saw me happily cutting butter into the flour. “WHAT are you DOING?!” Apparently, I hadn’t chilled the butter properly. Feeling very stupid, I decided I never wanted to bake anyway. I literally quit and I have been afraid of baking an apple pie ever since. (There is a lesson in there about the power of teachers, too, but that’s another story.)
I want my life to include homemade apple pie. So, I have a plan. I am going to begin by reading everything I can about apples. Then I’ll dive into reading the art of the crust. I will experiment a lot. And bake one pie a week for the next 8 weeks. My family will give me detailed feedback about the look, smell, texture, taste. I will take notes and try again.
By Thanksgiving, I will walk to the table with my very own pie in hand. We will give thanks.
What will your deliberate practice be?

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Middle School is where young people rapidly start owning their education. Middle school is the perfect time to develop intellect and character while gaining a deeper sense of self and the real world. Students have a broad palette of topics to study and pair in-depth academic exploration with real-world connections to experts and local apprenticeships. Middle School is about deepening a passion for individual subjects while broadening your understanding of yourself and your future.