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Ep. 127: Dr. Laila Sanguras - When Grit is a Goal, Grit is Gold!

October 16, 2020 Sucheta Kamath Season 1 Episode 127
Full PreFrontal
Ep. 127: Dr. Laila Sanguras - When Grit is a Goal, Grit is Gold!
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Ep. 127: Dr. Laila Sanguras - When Grit is a Goal, Grit is Gold!
Oct 16, 2020 Season 1 Episode 127
Sucheta Kamath

Imagine being more than 2,500 feet above the ground; with no harness, no ropes and no safety equipment. Alex Hannold scaled Yosemite’s El Capitan solo, seemingly effortlessly and with great command over the rock. The most remarkable aspect of the near impossible feat of accomplishment is Alex’s grit, a strength-based psychological skill that propels most humans to carve out a path to reach goals that are once thought to be unattainable. The question is, can we cultivate grit?

On this episode, educational scholar, lecturer in Curriculum & Instruction at Baylor University, and author of “A student’s guide to grit and greatness”, Dr. Laila Y. Sanguras, discusses how we can help kids recognize the value of effort influenced achievement. By focusing on grit, educators can unveil the secret that anyone who is at the top of their game got there by practicing the invisible micro skills, enduring  innumerable obstacles and committing to life’s big goals.

About Dr. Laila Sanguras
Laila Y. Sanguras, Ph.D., is a lecturer in the department of Curriculum & Instruction and co-editor of the Gifted Education Review, a newsletter for teachers and parents of gifted children. Dr. Sanguras earned a B.S. in education from Western Oregon University, followed by a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Portland State University and Ph.D. in educational research from the University of North Texas.

Dr. Sanguras’ primary scholarly interest is the development of psychosocial skills, particularly grit and coping, and how teachers and parents can support their children to succeed academically and personally. She works closely with school districts and parent organizations to bring research to practice. Dr. Sanguras also presents at numerous professional conferences and enjoys mentoring students on their personal research projects.

Websites:

Books/Materials:

About Host, Sucheta Kamath
Sucheta Kamath, is an award-winning speech-language pathologist, a TEDx speaker, a celebrated community leader, and the founder and CEO of ExQ®. As an EdTech entrepreneur, Sucheta has designed ExQ's personalized digital learning curriculum/tool that empowers middle and high school students to develop self-awareness and strategic thinking skills through the mastery of Executive Function and social-emotional competence.


Support the show (https://mailchi.mp/7c848462e96f/full-prefrontal-sign-up)

Show Notes Transcript

Imagine being more than 2,500 feet above the ground; with no harness, no ropes and no safety equipment. Alex Hannold scaled Yosemite’s El Capitan solo, seemingly effortlessly and with great command over the rock. The most remarkable aspect of the near impossible feat of accomplishment is Alex’s grit, a strength-based psychological skill that propels most humans to carve out a path to reach goals that are once thought to be unattainable. The question is, can we cultivate grit?

On this episode, educational scholar, lecturer in Curriculum & Instruction at Baylor University, and author of “A student’s guide to grit and greatness”, Dr. Laila Y. Sanguras, discusses how we can help kids recognize the value of effort influenced achievement. By focusing on grit, educators can unveil the secret that anyone who is at the top of their game got there by practicing the invisible micro skills, enduring  innumerable obstacles and committing to life’s big goals.

About Dr. Laila Sanguras
Laila Y. Sanguras, Ph.D., is a lecturer in the department of Curriculum & Instruction and co-editor of the Gifted Education Review, a newsletter for teachers and parents of gifted children. Dr. Sanguras earned a B.S. in education from Western Oregon University, followed by a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Portland State University and Ph.D. in educational research from the University of North Texas.

Dr. Sanguras’ primary scholarly interest is the development of psychosocial skills, particularly grit and coping, and how teachers and parents can support their children to succeed academically and personally. She works closely with school districts and parent organizations to bring research to practice. Dr. Sanguras also presents at numerous professional conferences and enjoys mentoring students on their personal research projects.

Websites:

Books/Materials:

About Host, Sucheta Kamath
Sucheta Kamath, is an award-winning speech-language pathologist, a TEDx speaker, a celebrated community leader, and the founder and CEO of ExQ®. As an EdTech entrepreneur, Sucheta has designed ExQ's personalized digital learning curriculum/tool that empowers middle and high school students to develop self-awareness and strategic thinking skills through the mastery of Executive Function and social-emotional competence.


Support the show (https://mailchi.mp/7c848462e96f/full-prefrontal-sign-up)

Sucheta Kamath: Welcome back to Full PreFrontal, where we figure out what powers the brain CEO to produce effective executive function and self directed effort. I am your host, Sucheta Cameron. And my hope is that through these meaningful conversations and thought provoking stories, we can all gain clarity and lead effective and productive lives. You can follow us on social media, my personal handle is at Sucheta Kamath. And we have a Facebook page for our Full PreFrontal podcast as well as we are on Twitter. And we are on many social media so and if you like us, please follow us on our social media and share with your colleagues and friends. So let's start with today's conversation. You know, Jerry usim, wrote an article in Atlantic several years ago. And in that he opened his essay with this movie, the chariots of fire, and there was a scene when the Scottish sprinter Eric lindahl was asked, Where does the power come from to see the race to its end? And he replies from within. So until the concept of grid kind of became the forefront of every every person's conversation, we were describing this something called inner power, motivation. And that's it. Some people have it, some people don't. And so Angela Duckworth work really, again, amid a common name. So it's so exciting to have our guests today. Her name is Dr. Laila Sanguras. She's a lecturer in department of curriculum and instruction, and co editor of the gifted education review in newsletter for teachers and parents of gifted children. She is an author of two books, I highly recommend, I am holding one as we speak. And this book is called Grit in the Classroom: Building perseverance for excellence in today's students. And she also is a mom of six children. And she brings her wisdom from terrain of being a parent, I bet. And finally, she presents at many conferences and has wonderful wisdom. I am so sure you'll enjoy it. So welcome to the podcast. Laila, how are you?

Dr. Laila Sanguras: Thank you. I'm really good. Thank you so much for inviting me.

Sucheta Kamath: Absolutely. So the podcast is about executive function, which is self directed effort, which is self regulation, self awareness, strategic thinking, meta awareness. And I love to ask my guests. When did you as a learner and a thinker become aware of your own abilities and skills? And how did that influence the way you learn?

Dr. Laila Sanguras: And yeah, so it's interesting, I think it really wasn't until I was pursuing my, my PhD at the University of North Texas where I really started to become aware of the way that I could focus my brain in a way that would help me understand the content and also stay motivated and committed to the task in front of me. So up until that point, a lot of my schooling had been interesting, but not all that challenging. And this was the first time where I had to really think about, you know, I had to come to terms with, you know, those that awful moment when you think you do really well on an exam, and then you leave and you realize, Oh, I didn't actually do that great. And so, you know, you have to become much more aware of yourself as a learner and trying to figure out what works best for you. And, you know, obviously, what doesn't work so.

Sucheta Kamath: So it wasn't until you were required to organize yourself and manage your learning. You kind of didn't think about it until then it sounds? So since you're the talk, we're going to have and your writing and your work focuses on grit and this ability to sustain that and persevere as well as bringing passion. Tell us a little bit about your own passion, and how would you rate your own grit skills?

Dr. Laila Sanguras: I think I'm pretty gritty. But we know that grit is domain specific. So I'm gritty in the fact that I can, you know set sort of lofty goals for myself and work toward achieving those like, you know, that graduating with an advanced degree or I recently completed this Subway Running Challenge where we had to run 250 miles over the summer, you know, so different things like that. But, you know, if you told me to, you know that I needed to, you know, set some sort of world record for push ups or something that doesn't interest me, then I probably would not seem all that gritty. So, you know, it really depends on what you're interested in, especially when you have the ability to control that, as an adult, you know, we have less control as a kid. 

Sucheta Kamath: Yes, and so. So let's start with the definition of Angela Duckworth puts forth, which is grit is combination of this passion with perseverance, but towards long term goals. How do you see this fit in the context of education? And let's talk about each element, the passion and the perseverance. And I guess the third element will would be the long term goal. So talk a little bit about defining grit for us.

Dr. Laila Sanguras: Yeah, and I'm so glad that you wanted to start with that. Because one of the problems is that a lot of people, when they think about grit, they think about stick-to-it-iveness, right, you just don't give up, you just keep pushing forward. And it really is. And that's a part of it, perseverance is absolutely a part of it. But the passion is what keeps you moving. So anytime we've anyone has ever done anything hard, they have wanted to quit, right, you hit the wall, and the the part that gets you moving is the passion. So it's that you, you know, have always wanted to complete this degree, or you promised your kids that you would run a marathon or, you know, you your dad knows how much you want to write this book. And so you're going to make sure that you do that so and so it's this passion piece that keeps you moving, despite whatever the obstacles are, that are in front of you. So in school, what we we need to think about how we can cultivate each one of those, if we want our, you know, students to be gritty, and then the same is true at home, we need to show that we value both of those things in a way that promotes kids, you know, taking risks, trying new things, figuring out what they like, committing to those things, once they start, you know, once they say that they're going to commit to something, they don't give up all of that. And then we can also really think about how we can help kids, even at the elementary level set goals. And so I talk a lot about how we can set what I call these super stretch goals. And that's your, you know, that's your dream, like mine was, you know, to be on Oprah, and you know, I didn't get there before she went off the air. So I'm going to have to

Sucheta Kamath: Don't give up yet. You do remind me of Brene Brown.

Dr. Laila Sanguras: So, um, you know, I'd have to so but that's so that's a super stretch goal. But then from there, I can start thinking about Okay, what are some smart goals, you know, Specific, Measurable, Attainable, all of those things? And then from there, what are daily actions that I can take that will allow me to reach the SMART goals that will allow me to reach the super stretch goals? Well, what ends up happening is, as kids get older, we focus more and more on the SMART goals, because those are measurable. So we can check the box, yes, you succeeded, or No, you didn't, you know, you need to keep working on it. And we leave out that, that dream or the passion at the top. And by doing that we are, are losing some of that passion. And we're also losing opportunities to reinforce the behaviors that we're seeing in our kids. So, for example, my son who is 13, and he is he wants to be a professional basketball player in the NBA, right typical 13 year old boy. And he, if we were in person, you could tell that I am about five feet tall, and he's very, you know, he takes after me in his height. And so there's a chance that he's not going to make it to the NBA. And but what we don't want to focus on is we don't want to focus on the top and kind of not reaching that super stretch goal. Instead, we want to think about those daily actions that lead to the SMART goals. So for example, if a SMART goal was that he wanted to make an elite basketball team for his age level, he could probably do that the daily actions would be you know, that he commits to practicing every day for 20 minutes, or whatever it is. And then when he if he fails to make it to the NBA, we can still look back and say but look at all of these ways that you improved: how you committed to something how you, you know, gave up time with your friends, because you knew that this commitment was important to reaching your ultimate dream. And we really, we've got to help our kids see that they have control over those, the actions that they take and the decisions that they make, and that and we also have to recognize that even if you like that failure isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's just something that happens along the way when you're trying to reach any elite level of success.

Sucheta Kamath: No, I'm so glad that right off the bat, you talked about the goal setting process, which is so difficult for students, particularly as you know, it's part of that executive function abilities, which is to recognize the the outcome, and then create a path to reach that outcome through a plan. And then the biggest gap I see is that the goal may not be yours, the goal is maybe moms and moms and dads or maybe your parent or your teachers. So let's say finish this assignment, that's not my goal, my goal is to hang out with my friends. And so suddenly, now, the history teacher wants you to write a paper or finish a project. So one of the gaps that I feel is unless and until somebody, a charismatic adult in the child's life kind of shows the mission or the stretch goal, the  ambitious ways to actualize your dream through daily actions, it is okay to pursue some of these goals that are not yours. But through that process of sticking with that process and engaging in skill building, you can achieve the goals. So I really like that goals need to be thought out more explicitly. How can educators understand this gap? Because to me, executive function is part of the hidden agenda. It's the hidden curriculum, it's not taught explicitly, as we teach math, science, Spanish, it is at the very foundation on which the rest of the curriculum stands on. But that creating goals creating their assignments are created, but the goals are not the goals are implicit to the assignments. So how do you encourage the educators to translate that which is implicit and bring into or showcase it more explicitly into the curriculum, curricular activities?

Dr. Laila Sanguras: Yeah, if we, if we are intentional about helping kids dream, and then back up those dreams, then we can help them make connections between what we're asking them to do in the classroom and what they ultimately care about, like you said, because a lot of times, sadly, they don't care as teachers about the same things that we care about. And so an example building upon so my son, and his language arts teacher, for example, was aware of, of this dream. And, you know, he's thinking I don't need language arts for any reason, because all I need to be doing is practicing basketball. Well, one of the things that the language arts teacher can think about is ultimately what is the essential question behind what I am doing? And what is the ultimate goal of my curriculum? Well, as a language arts teacher, it should be that I want to help you, you know, read, write, think and, you know, and, and be able to discuss and be able to communicate effectively and intelligently in any environment, whether you are writing it, whether you're speaking it whether you're on the elevator with someone, and so if you are a professional basketball player, let's say you make it to your your dream. Well, my job is a language arts teacher now is to help you so that when you are interviewed by a reporter, after the big game, you don't sound like a fool on the basketball court, right? You know how to keep your composure, you can, you know, explain the decisions that you made on the court, all of those things. And, and you feel good about being able to think on your feet and be able to, you know, communicate whatever it is that you're being asked to do? Well, the way that I we get to that is that we all we need to look at, you know, really fine details of how Edgar Allan Poe wrote this poem. And then I need you to be able to articulate what a thesis statement is. And you know, so you're sort of just practicing those micro skills that lead up to that essential question or the the big goal of the course.

Sucheta Kamath: I love that. And I think what's coming up here is the role of effort and intentional practice. So talk a little bit about how does that connect that deliberate practice to and it's a sister skill of grid or it is component of a grid. And I feel one of the things that is missing out in daily educational. I wouldn't say language, but it's not put in the forefront of teaching. It's again, embedded in the way you succeed. For example, if an assignment takes you 45 minutes, and if you stick with it, and actually answer all the questions, you are in a way showing grit, but if you look at an assignment that takes you 45 minutes and you say, Oh my god, I don't want to do it. Right there, your relationship to the work is not coming from a place of value, it's coming simply by the amount of effort that I need to put in, particularly if I don't like it., We are calling students to develop the same relationship to the content, whether they like it or not, and bring in these skills. How do you see one achieves that?

Dr. Laila Sanguras: Um, well, I think we, we have to, as teachers, and as parents, we have to make sure that kids understand that we all do things that we don't want to do, and that, you know, that's sort of part of life. But then the other thing is that grit is a psychological strength that you need to develop before you actually need it. So it's kind of like self defense, right? You don't take a self defense class, because you think, as soon as I walk out, I'm going to be attacked, and I have to defend myself, you take it so that in the horrible chance that you are attacked, you can defend yourself, well, the same is true for grit, you, you don't develop that skill, to overcome obstacles to not give up to understand, you know, your interests, being able to articulate those interests, like you don't develop those skills. Because tomorrow, you're going to need them or because they are important on the state test at the end of the year, it's because we know that at some point, you are going to hit that wall, or you're going to approach an obstacle that is going to seem so large that you can't possibly see your way around it. And so what we need to do while our kids are home with us, or in our classrooms, you know, with the safety of us, in our Zoom rooms, wherever they're coming to us from that we are providing opportunities for them to stumble and to recover from those stumbles. So that they can build up that optimism that they can, that they can overcome obstacles that they can stick with an assignment that they didn't want to do. And looking back, they realize, oh, there was value to doing that I learned this skill, whatever it is, so. So I think I think we have to really take seriously the opportunities we have, while they're with us before they leave. Because we know we all know that life is hard. And and there are going to be times when it gets really bad. And we've got to help whether it's at work or academic or personally or anything, we need to help them build up their capacity. And they're, like I said, their optimism that they can handle it.

Sucheta Kamath: I love that there's a story comes to mind, you know, when the pandemic hit, there was a story of this little 15 year old girl from India, who lived in Uttar Pradesh, which is next to Delhi you can imagine and she her family lived almost like thousand kilometers away and her she had come to Delhi to be with her father to help him because he was a rickshaw driver and he broke I think his leg and he was not able to work that well. And when the pandemic hit after right after in three months, they decided to or that he lost income and and suddenly it was a dilemma how do we get back and so this little girl that was she was so entrepreneurial and and really gritty, she finagle a deal with a neighbor and and bought a very tiny bicycle, you know, and she put her father on the back and she wrote rode the bicycle. So it took her entire two weeks, I think to get back to her village and and people who are blown away by her perseverance or ability to like really put this, you know, in hot Indian sun in March, which is like, you know, very it's summer. What struck me is when the cycle federation of India discovered her story, I don't know, bicycle Federation or something like that. And they came to her and say, Would you become a sports spokesperson for us? And she says, No, thank you. This pandemic interrupted my school I want to go back to school. It was so funny to me, because she showed all the signs of being gritty, when she was called to, to this challenge, where she had to really really not give up. She did it. She also showed incredible skills. But that was not her passion. And and so she didn't want to become the cyclist. And we'll get into anything about cycling. So I just love that story so much. And I shared that with a lot of my students that I work with are my teacher training. So let's talk about passion. And and in such a, I find this so foolish that we tell our children, you know, be passionate. I think that's such a that's such a bad message. It's actually the journey begins with exposure than interest than persistence and then passion, right? So talk to us how you envision this, and you have talked a lot in your book, which I love, by the way. So tell us how to shape the students beginning as, like the sapling, that maybe just curiosity or interest.

Dr. Laila Sanguras: Yeah. And I think it's, it's, that's such a that's a great story. Absolutely. I love it. And I think with, with passion, you're right in that it. So it starts with curiosity. And I think a lot of times, you know, in schools, we teachers have so many things that they have to do, and they have all these standards and all of these things. And, and we know if you know, if you've ever been around a three year old, they are very curious, right? They have so many questions, and they can just sort of drive you crazy with them? Well, they learn over time that that curiosity is not really valued. You know, there's we don't have time for that, you know, I need you to stop asking me questions about this, we have to do it, yes. But what we can do is we can start to, we can, we can bring back just little ways where we can encourage students to be curious, because curiosity is what leads to interest and the interest is what leads to passion. And, and so the first step is obviously getting kids to, to be curious about the world they live in, it's very easy. So like an idea that I that I share, often is having kids write down I wonder statements. And you know, if as a teacher, you say, okay, every Monday, you're going to have to write down five, I wonder statements, and the kids are looking around the room thinking, I don't wonder anything, I guess I wonder why the walls are white, or I wonder what you know, I don't know. And then pretty soon, if every Monday, they know that they have to walk in and write down five things? Well, they are going to start like on the weekend thinking oh, my gosh, I'm going to go to her class, and she's going to make me wonder so so then they start looking around their house, and they're, you know, and they're, and they're wondering, I wonder why, you know, I never see my neighbors outside, or I wouldn't, you know, and so it starts to expand from there, because it's this repetitive, required activity. And so we're training them to start being more curious. And we, we also sort of have gotten away from that, with technology, you know, we don't have a lot of downtime, if we're in line at the supermarket, we take out our phones, and we're scrolling through, we're not really looking around and, and really thinking we're just consuming or you know, being sort of passive scrollers. So, and our kids are the same way. And so that's one of the things that I talked about. And the same is true with parents. So if you, if you ask your child, you know, when you get in the car, after you pick them up from school, you know, tell me something that you're wondering about, and they'll say, I don't I can't think of anything. And then you'll say okay, well, we'll just sit here until you can think of something and they'll think of something, and but it's just kind of getting in that habit of figuring out, you know, kind of just being curious about the world, especially if they don't have, you know, there, it sort of seems like kids fall into two different buckets, where they have extreme interest, there's super passionate about playing chess, or baseball or you know, they have like, or Godzilla my one of my boys is absolutely into Godzilla. But then there are other kids who kind of struggle they don't really know. And so that's why we have to start exposing them to these new ideas about like possibilities and things you can be interested in and pushing them and encouraging them to find kind of that thing that they really love.

Sucheta Kamath: And I really like to see people taking the time to distinguish between what the child's  talent may be may not be their passion. And I think I see time and again, if the child shows some interest in chess now he's in chess class for three years. Yeah, yeah. You know, or the child was like playing with a video game and, and came up with a hack that made the video game like a little bit better and then parents discovered they're like, now you're in a coding class, you know? Yeah,

Dr. Laila Sanguras: Yeah, that's one of the best and fastest ways to kill a passion is to force that kind of thing on top of onto students. Definitely.

Sucheta Kamath: There was a great story and I'm not forgetting who the artist was. This was a photographer who took in pictures of who documented old trains and trolleys and and then they became extinct in a way in like, by late 70s. I think they were gone like these steam engines, but he was so passionate that he out of hobby like he became a reporter, but on the weekends, he would just go on the he lived in Pennsylvania and as you know, there are a lot of like railway tracks. He will take pictures and eventually became this highly celebrated artists. And when he died, they replayed a one of his interviews and he was talking about that, when he was six years old. He had difficulty reading and writing. But he, he would sit in his room, and from his window, he would see this amazing river. And in the river, he would see different ships. And he could distinguish every and each, each and every single ship based on the sound it made. But he said, my teacher never asked me. Yeah, and I was punished. And there was so there was so much the experience of education was so punitive, that you're not doing this one thing that we are asking, but no, he was never made that, like the connection that you talked earlier. And and I think that's where we might be missing the boat. So, so tell us a little bit about the culture of that teacher, or the educational institute, what kind of culture they they should have at the heart of this, where they put that discovery process ahead of the curriculum without compromising the curriculum? Is there a way to do that?

Dr. Laila Sanguras: Yep. So I think there are always opportunities to introduce choice to students. And, um, you know, one way that we can kind of stoke curiosity of our students is if we, you know, tell them sort of the deep dives of, of our curriculum. So for example, you know, I use the example of Edgar Allan Poe, I used to love teaching about Poe. And I would love to share sort of fun facts about Poe, that, you know, students may never know about him, or, you know, or reading a poem and, and really getting into it, and, you know, sharing my enthusiasm with it, but then making sure that students knew kind of the relationship of the author to the the speaker that he was talking to, and, you know, kind of those sort of behind the scenes, pieces that would get kids really interested. The same is true with history, you know, we can kind of set we can share kind of the surface of the historical aspects. But then if we can also share stories of individuals who were involved in that time period, that can also spark students curiosity, and get them to ask questions. I think independent study always has a place and can always be tied to pretty much any content standard, if you are framing it within, you know, the math class, there's this independent study time that you have to investigate some sort of math concept that you're interested in, or a mathematician, whatever it is. And, you know, there are lots of schools to use, where they have, oh, I'm forgetting the name of it. Um, it's a, an opportunity for them to just pick anything they want. And they can, they can study, whatever it is, they want every I think it's every Friday or something. It's the whole school stops what they're doing, and they all are studying this, you know, they all get to choose their own. And, and, and it's really a great opportunity. But I think we we fall a little bit short, in that when we give students choice, we also should be asking them to make connections to previous choices that they've made. Yes, if we ask them to sort of, so the thread between why they chose this topic, and then this topic, and then this topic, they can start to see, oh, I'm really interested in, you know, female entrepreneurs, you know, or turns out, I really enjoy in being involved in these independent study projects that are about, like the early 1800s, or something like that, where it may seem if the the topics are isolated, they may seem unrelated. But if we ask them to make the connections, we they still get to choose anything they want. But they have to connect their previous topic to this next topic, then they can also start to articulate those interests, that that are driving them to choose whatever these topics are.

Sucheta Kamath: That's so interesting, you said that one of the activities that I do with my students is the gold pyramid. It's or, or a mission pyramid. So each, like so every, everything we do every day is a choice we make, right? And it's it's an effort to pursue or accomplish something. But it's rarely or it's not a common practice unless you are developing that introspective skill of pausing and reflecting or that metacognitive skill. But if you map the students, and one of the things that I asked students is what do you do when you're doing nothing? And and so if you start making a list, and so I have students document that over a period of two weeks, and then they can make that fall into different buckets, buckets, and then they will begin to see their interest like what kind of thing do I watch the most? Or do I think, who do I talk to the most? When when I talk to these people, what am I talking about? And and I think that, that, figuring out who they are, through those choices they make, can really inform them about what was that intentional or accidental, but ultimately, it is leading towards something, right?

Dr. Laila Sanguras: Yeah, and you don't have to, it can be in the context of, of any lesson that you're teaching. So you don't have to lose the content or say, you know, something like, I think, you know, teachers often are, have so many things on their plates, that it's hard for them to envision how they can do one more thing. And so we just have to work together to figure out ways that they can replace something else, or how this kind of seamlessly falls in, in line with what they were already doing anyway.

Sucheta Kamath: And, you know, I think it also comes down to having a great fund of knowledge, my son always laughs at me when I say the word fund of knowledge, you know, it's the expanded knowledge you have about the universe, greater capacity, you have to make the connections. One of my favorite stories is about Napoleon, that when the conquerer and at that time, aluminum was just invented, so so when the aluminum the chemical composition of aluminum was not understood. So this one particular person, I guess, had come and, and the story goes a little, it's a complicated story, but it was discovered 1000 years ago, and then somehow, the king at that time chopped the hands of the person who invented so that became kind of it disappeared. And during Napoleon's time, it came back again. And when the Napoleon at that time, he would use silver and gold covered or gold made plates, or silverware to serve his guests. And that particular a king from China came and he actually served, he got rid of his gold and silver stuff, and he replaced it with aluminum, come to find out, it was so cheap. But so I think if you inform this little story that how we are influenced by, by things until we know more like you can combine history with science. And it wasn't until the science of making aluminum became clear, Napoleon would have continued to get rid of silver and gold, which is much more precious, you know? Right. Right. So that actually requires the teachers and parents to have the passion about content, and that you can bring your knowledge from various topics that you're interested in. So do you see your once personal passion having a role or a place, or strong influencing factor on students?

Dr. Laila Sanguras: I think I think it's important to share for for teachers and parents to share both sides of the coin. So it's important for them to share their interests. And parents, a lot of times can get caught up in you know, if you ask what they do for fun, they say things like, you know, go watch, my kid played soccer, you know, like, they don't, they, their lives become consumed with their kids. And you know, I love my kids more than anything, but it's also important that your kids know that you have individual interests that you're pursuing as a parent, and, and that they see you pursuing your passion, and whatever that looks like. And the same is true for teachers, teachers can share the the interest that they have, so that, you know, kids kind of get a sense of, you know, with kind of like with the story that you said, with every story, you hear, your worldview becomes a little bit wider, and you can understand and, and you have, you realize that the possibilities become a little bit more endless. Because you're not just limited by what you see in front of you. The same is true for perseverance, we have to voice our own struggles, we have to be comfortable talking about times that we felt like we failed, or that we felt like we were uncomfortable, we have to rethink what it means to fail completely. But if teachers aren't comfortable sharing personal failures with students, they can definitely do it by sharing profiles of people who are, you know, that fall within their content area. And, you know, obviously, science is full of people who have failed over and over and over again before they succeeded. And those stories are true everywhere. Or the other thing is we can ask students, you know, like we figure out who they're interested in, and we ask them So, I have I'm working on this book of resources for teachers and it has profiles of different people in it. And I share these stories of these individual people and then talk about you know, and then provide prompts like how you could have a discussion or a journal or something with with students. But if you have a kid who is, you know, I have one of my other kids really loves Billy Eilish the singer. And so one of the conversations that we can have is, well, what are some obstacles that she had to overcome before she became famous? And I guarantee you that my child knows the answer, because he is obsessed with her. But similar to the story that you told about the the boy with the boats, nobody ever asks him, you know, nobody ever asks him, tell me about your favorite singer in times that she struggled. And so because we also have to get our kids to understand that no one who is at the top has gotten there without failure. And so it's not failure isn't this exit ticket? It's just something that happens along the way.

Sucheta Kamath: And what I really love that you just changed it, I think people do ask, tell me about your most favorite, you know, basketball player, but they never asked, When did he fail? Or do you know anything about his failures? Because that just changes the whole narrative, right? I mean, what Michael Jordan had a incredible I'm gonna butcher this, but his stats were very high about the number of times he actually made the shot. But he always talks about like 5000 misses to 237 hits, or something like that, right? Yeah. My favorite story is James Dyson, you know, who had more than 5000 prototypes, and he is now a billionaire. So I think it's really that normalizing failure, bringing that conversation about failure, as part of a life experience, rather than something to avoid or something to go around. In fact, incorporate that into being that person who's full of robust living requires failing.

Dr. Laila Sanguras: Yeah, and it's really, it's not a judgment. And I think I think we have too many, there's a lot of shame wrapped up in failure. And we have to help our kids recognize that that's not necessarily the you know, it's not something to be ashamed of. And, and to think that failure is really just a data point, it just tells you where you are at this moment, so that we can recalibrate and make a new plan for moving forward. That's all it is.

 

Sucheta Kamath: I love that. So when it comes to the way I see from executive function, and its relationship to this passion, perseverance, and long term is in passion, there's motivation, that sustaining focus in the area of interest or area of curiosity, even if there's no interest. Second, the perseverance is requires task analysis skills, deliberate practice, good decision making and error analysis. And then the final part, which is that long term goals, achieving long term goals requires planning and organizing prospective memory skills that are delaying gratification. Tell us, how do you see the metacognitive skills fit in this picture of grit? Because there's one thing to do to pause and reflect. And there's another thing to pause and reflect and deduce correctly about mistakes? Or the observations you make? And children by design are less equipped than than adults are. And sometimes adults own blind spots, don't let them see or draw the right conclusions. So how, how do you propose we polish these metacognitive skills?

Dr. Laila Sanguras: Yeah, I Well, I think, you know, I talked about the shame that's associated with failure. And, and we have to get, we have to figure out a way around that. And one of the ways that we can do that is start to think that experiences fall into one of four buckets. So it's either a productive success, which is when you you know, you really had to work hard for something, and you got it. So you, you know, you had your dream college, you had to work hard to get into it. And you got into there into that college. And unproductive success is one where you didn't have to work for it. So it's the equivalent of getting the trophy after being playing t-ball, right? Everybody gets a trophy, everybody wins. And as a little kid, you know, you're this, it's your dream to have a trophy. So it's fantastic. But by the time you're 15, if someone hands you a trophy, just for showing up, you know, it doesn't, it's not worth anything. So, so that's the unproductive success. And then there's productive and unproductive failure. unproductive failure is when you don't achieve whatever goal it is that you have set for yourself. And you you don't take the time to think about it to process it anything likely because of the shame or anger and and you are uncomfortable dealing with those feelings. So you just sort of push it aside and move on. And then the most important is the productive failure, and that's when you don't achieve what you sought out for. But you take the time to figure out a new plan, you think about, you know, what are the decisions that I made that got me where I am now? What did I have control over? What did I not have control over? So identifying all of those obstacles, so that you can, you know, go about it differently the next time around. And that's really all it is, you know, in the path to success is just learning from, you know, we say all the time you learn from your mistakes? Well, I think we have to help kids figure out what exactly that looks like, how do you exactly Learn from your mistakes.

Sucheta Kamath: So the research in grit talks about these, you know, characteristics of people with high grit, being four characteristics, you know, they have high level of interest, they practice deliberately, they have a sense of purpose. And the final is they harbor a sense of hope, you know, the willingness to keep to keep going. And I just love that, because it's such an important emotional affair of, particularly when you want to give up or particularly when you don't see a point of it all. It's the sense of hope. How do you and you've written a lot about that and talk about a rule of hope? And this particular ways of talking about becoming Oprah right, like, hope dealer, you say, yeah, so you get hope, you get hope? So talk about hope? And how do how can we invite teachers, educators to become those who have a more than pessimistic attitude when it comes to children with difficulties? I think that's something I see time and again, particularly with executive dysfunction, those who have behavioral problems they get written off for for being inappropriate or not recognizing the teachers effort, and they get more punitive reactions from teachers. So what role can they play in infusing hope in students?

Dr. Laila Sanguras: Yeah, if we are all in for grit, meaning that we are going to set high high standards for our students, we're going to provide opportunities for them to struggle and opportunities for them to pursue their interests, there are going to be times where they are going to want to give up, that's just that's a natural product of that. And so in order to, to get through it, we have to buy into the idea that we are hope dealers, we are the people who need to, you know, make sure that these our own children, and then the students in our classes recognize that they're, they have so much power, and they they need to constantly be helping kids understand that they can do it, that they're not, we're not setting them up for failure, we're setting them up to work and to to practice the skill so that they can reach high levels of achievement. And that that takes practice, it's not something you just wake up and do. And then I also, I think, we also need to help kids understand that the most powerful voice that they hear every single day is their own, that's the voice that is in their head, and that travels around with them everywhere. And we know that gritty people are also optimistic people, meaning that they can, they can fail, and they can recognize they're going to be okay, they can, they can get a bad grade on a math test and not have their, you know, world shattered because, or doubt their ability of becoming a mathematician later on in life. So we need to help them recognize that when they hear the voice in their head, that's telling them they're not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, fast enough, whatever it is that they need to shut down that voice and they need to replace it with the positive voices that they can do it that they've and that's where the power of past experiences come in. Because if you just tell a kid you can do it. And the kids thinking, I've never been gritty in my whole life. I can't do it. So instead, we scaffold it. And we say, do you remember last month when you really struggled with that math problem? And you you worked on it, you worked on it? And then you set it aside because you were so frustrated? And then you came back to it? And then you've got the right answer? Do you remember how that felt? That's evidence that you can do this too, because you've done it before. And so we just want to build it's sort of like building a wall of all of these experiences that help students believe in themselves and it's just you know, further proof that they can do it.

Sucheta Kamath: I love it. And I love the way you break it down into doable actions. These are not fantastic ideas or like philosophy of life. You know, it's actually can we relive through so we can end without talking about parenting? You know, I'm in my work has been influenced by one of my favorite researchers, Annette Larue. She wrote a book called Unequal Childhoods in 2003. And she coined the term you might have heard of this already called concerted cultivation, and which, which means a life, a style of parenting, or parenting practice, or where parents attempt to foster their children's talents, by incorporating activities that become how their lives get organized. And and so parents talk and cajole, negotiate and bargain with kids. And she speculates that concerted cultivation, cultivation creates adults, who then eventually this particularly middle class, and upper class is, these children, when they become adults, they they know how to challenge authority, navigate bureaucracy, and manage their time. But the downside of that is that parents are exhausted, they are scheduled driven, and they're exhausted. And, and I find that I see a lot of that in, in my practice for last 20 years, that setting up children for success becomes a project for parents, rather than building gritty children. And I also wonder, parents have not really taken a look at if they are gritty people or not. They you can be successful without really cultivating some of these mindsets that you're talking about. So how, first of all, would you frame grit in the context of parenting? What are the top of the mind things people should think about? If they're a parent, parenting children?

Dr. Laila Sanguras: I think we, we have to buy in to the fact that it's okay for our kids to struggle. So it's okay for them to face natural consequences. We can't always and should not come in and save the day. And I think I see a lot of parents, you know, wanting to protect their children from painful experiences that they've had. And that ends up where they become sort of that, you know, lawn mower parent, where they're getting rid of all of the obstacles in front of the child before they have a chance to approach those obstacles. And we don't want that. Because we want our kids to struggle, and you have to buy into that. So we want to have, we want to help our kids by setting firm and loving limits. So you know, I remember reading early on that as a parent, you know, you say no, when you mean it, if you don't mean it, don't say no, because students or kids need to know that your word means something. And so I've caught myself sometimes automatically, uh, you know, one of my kids asking about something, and I'll just say no. And then I'll think, Well, actually, you probably could do that. And so I have to backtrack and say, you know, I, I spoke too soon, you know, this, this can work in this way. We want to make sure we use enforceable statements. So if we say that, if you don't do x, then this is the consequence, then that actually needs to be the consequence. Again, they need to understand that our word means something, we have to help them understand the importance of self discipline, and the executive functioning skills just like you've been talking about for years. So it's really important that they know the importance of goal setting, of holding back their input impulses, organizing time management, all of that, and that, you know, we can help them and support them through it. But you know, ultimately, this is their responsibility. And we also can help parents understand the importance of delayed gratification. And you know, that kind of builds upon that idea of, you have to work for something that's that productive success piece. And then also, I think, more and more, we have to help our kids understand strategies that they can use to reduce anxiety, because we're seeing more and more of that sort of anxiety in kids for for whatever reason, and we need to help them understand how they can monitor and self regulate themselves in an anxious environment.

Sucheta Kamath: I'm so glad you mentioned that about the anxiety. I think that anxiety to me is tied in with the performance and perfection and having this image of who your children you need them to see become without really supporting the skills. I love your quote you say remind parents that gritty children are often the product of parents who are consistent in their expectations. And that's exactly what you summarized. Laila, you're an amazing mind. And I'm so glad that you came on this podcast and shared your wisdom and the clarity with which you lay down all these processes that are not only very easy to understand But also doable. But also, I think it's a playbook for parents and teachers to follow. If they do have not even all the things you talk about, they will lead very successful lives. So thank you very much for being here. Before I let you go, what are your favorite two books that have inspired you or or have influenced you?

Dr. Laila Sanguras: Well, Duckworth's book absolutely did. And I read that, I guess, early on when I was working on my dissertation, and I just really, really loved that. And obviously, it sort of catapulted me into this whole area of research and interests. And I think I just stumbled across it actually. Um, and then let's see, gosh.

Sucheta Kamath: Sorry, I didn't mean to spring a question like that on you.

Dr. Laila Sanguras: That's okay. That's okay. I'm trying to think of, oh, gosh, another I was trying to think of a fiction book that I I read a lot of young adult fiction. And I think, I think it's my sort of layover from being an eighth grade teacher for so long that I sort of consumed everything. So all of John Green's books, I think, are so smart and clever, and I love the book about the Catherine's and I just love all of his books. So anyway, I could go on and on about young adult books.

Sucheta Kamath: I'm so glad you mentioned that. I I actually, I love children's books, and I collect them. And when my both my children left for college, I took a close to 400 books and shipped it to my brother who had a younger daughter and and then I became like, remorseful, like I lost my babies or something. I still, I ordered from Amazon children's books, and my husband was saying the other day who is this for? Me? Yeah, I completely get it this teen dramas and the way that psychology you know, kind of the play of psychology is really depicted beautifully in John Green's book. So thank you for sharing. So once again, thank you everybody for tuning in today. I'm so happy to have our guest and brilliant mind. Dr. Laila Sanguras and please stay connected. Sign up if you haven't already for our subscribe to our podcast and you will get a newsletter and a please check out. I will be adding show notes so that you can access Dr. Sanguras' work and order the books that she's talked about. And I've talked about today. And thank you again and have a fabulous day everybody. Bye.