It’s Going to Take Grit

Today, I am literally six weeks into my post as Director of Member Relations here at TABS. After fifteen years in the admission world, I’ll admit, I do miss the day-in-day-out work with kids and their parents and the rhythm that school work provides…morning meetings and goofy skits, interviews with 8th graders that inspired me, chapel services that gave me goose bumps, meals in the dining hall where I laughed hard with friends, fields bustling with activity, and the bucolic pathway I walked each day that delivered me to my office and back to my home…often meeting my wife, my dogs, and my two year old along the way. Good stuff.


And if there’s a reason why I chose to work at TABS, an organization dedicated solely to boarding schools, it’s summarized in the images above. Talk to most boarding school graduates or folks who work in our schools and they’re liable to conjure up similar imagery that’s unique to their story. Bottom-line – boarding schools are very special places. And for those of us connected to them, it can be difficult to suppress our passion for them. Just visit any boarding school website or leaf through their view books…is it a coincidence that each of them illustrate similar messages of kindness, happiness, and beauty? Of course not. There is truth in our advertising.

Now comes the hard part. Despite their idyllic charm and undeniable results, boarding schools face all sorts of challenges (rising tuitions, an economy still in recovery mode, increased competition from charter schools and online opportunities, unfavorable demographic shifts: you name it, boarding schools face it), and TABS is positioned to be the primary resource to help schools address them. Boarding schools are working harder than ever to thrive in today’s challenging times, calling upon their best and brightest to blaze pathways to sustainable futures.

A few weeks ago while in Philadelphia at SSATB’s Annual Conference, I heard UPenn’s Dr. Angela Duckworth speak on the topic of grit, which she contends is often a better predictor of success than IQ. A packed ballroom of educators, completely rapt, listened intently to Duckworth as she presented compelling stories – backed by meticulous research – to make her case. In fact, just last week Duckworth was bestowed a MacArthur Foundation grant, aka a “Genius Award.”

All this got me thinking about what it will take for our schools – these special places that have earned indelible residence in our hearts and minds – to continue to not only survive, but thrive in the years ahead. How will we face and overcome the challenges we face now and the new ones we can’t see that are around the bend? Smarts will definitely be called upon, but given Duckworth’s assertions, perhaps it’s time we consider grit on an equal plane. If we are to expect it from our students, we best demand it of ourselves!


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