The Brain Series: Developing True Grit


SMUS Director of Learning, Heather Clayton, likes to talk about failure. In fact, she is so into failure that she used an entire Brain Series lecture to talk about it. We’ve all heard some form of the statement “If you have never failed, you have never tried anything new,” and Heather unpacks this with examples from the most current adolescent brain research. In the process she relieves some of the pressure on parents and students when it comes to school, academics and the shifting definition of success.

The Copeland Lecture Theatre was packed for Heather’s talk and, in case you weren’t able to make it, Grade 12 student Shannon talks to Heather about failure, grit and some strategies for developing both. After you watch the video, read insights from Heather Sandquist, a Junior School teacher and mother. Feel free to leave comments and questions as well.

by Heather Sandquist, mother and Grade 4 teacher

I thoroughly enjoyed Heather Clayton’s recent evening presentation. It was my first time attending a session and I walked away after an hour feeling like I had a great deal to think about.

I wore two hats that night — one of a Grade 4 teacher and one of a mother of a Kindergarten student at our school. Heather’s presentation was insightful and validating for me as a parent and a teacher. I appreciate how she didn’t dive in too deep on certain topics and yet gave us further links to explore if the topic was of interest to us.

As my son is now just beginning his formal schooling, I found the session helped me to understand and navigate this long road ahead of us. I really liked hearing about how students need to develop “grit” as they experience failure and not necessarily immediate success. Her session helped me to understand how I can help my son by standing by him and supporting him whether he is successful or not.

I felt that I could relate with Heather as she spoke of personal experiences and offered much food for thought. I like how she approaches her presentations and doesn’t preach to the audience. She shared information about the brain and I think each and every one of us were able to walk away with things to think about and apply to our own lives as parents.

Heather Clayton’s suggestions for further reading and viewing

How Children Succeed by Paul Tough
Children of the Affluent by Suniya S. Luthar and Shawn J. Latendresse
Angela Lee Duckworth talks about “Grit”.

Don’t miss Heather’s next Learning and Brain session, “The Surprising Science of Success” on Monday, November 19.



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