This Memorial Day weekend I could not help thinking and reflecting on my grandfather and the topic of growth. My grandfather was a career military man who served in the Navy and Coast Guard. He loved serving his country and the time spent on the ocean defending our county. Every Memorial Day, he would organize and march in the Memorial Day Parade in town up to his late 80’s. He would proudly sport the same uniform he wore as young man as he marched in the parade with pride. This had an impact upon on several relatives and close friends who likewise made careers in the military. In fact, my first cousin is currently attending a military academy in order to train to become a Navy officer.
As I was at the beach this weekend with my family my mind wondered from remembering my grandfather to the topic of growth. I was recently reading a book how the military academies (West Point, Annapolis, The Coast Guard Academy, the Air Force Academy) even with an intensive screening and acceptance process will have several men and women drop-out after the first month and even more before the third year. The men and women who complete and graduate from these academies did not necessarily have the highest measured growth scores in their class and/or are the most athletic. These cadets had an internal or intrinsic motivation to succeed no matter how difficult or challenging the circumstances. The book went on to say there is no assessment or diagnostic tool now or likely ever that will show this characteristic. I like to think of this as grit.
I went on to reflect as I was doing walk-throughs this weekend of classrooms at Pine Glen and how much students have grown not only in height but socially and academically too. As I walked into a third grade I reflected on seeing these students over a year ago at the beginning of second grade. It is simply remarkable to see how much taller they are and the level of sophistication of work they are doing in less than two years. There are students doing things now at Pine Glen they simply didn’t do a year ago. These students have benefited from fantastic instruction from the amazing teachers at Pine Glen School. Some students particularly have had to overcome emotional, medical or academic difficulties and have shown tremendous grit. Although, they might not score a desired performance on a state assessment I along with their teachers are tremendously proud of them. No assessment will show the level of grit they now have and can apply to other challenges they may face in life.
I came back on my reflection from my walk-throughs to my daughter playing in the waves at the beach. She will turn 7 on Thursday. Every year of her life I have a memory of being in the ocean water with her. I have always tossed her several feet up in the air and caught her as her feet have impact with the salty water. She has produced giggling sounds along with big smile the entire time. My daughter has grown a lot this year and standing next to me I might have at best a foot’s distance in height. I realized this weekend that this is the first summer I won’t be to do this any more for she has grown. As parents we want our children to grow but sometimes when they get there it is even more difficult. What our children and grandchildren will take with them, as memories of us will be our love, commitment and dedication. These characteristics will give them the foundation and modeling to have grit and tremendous growth.