podcast for teachers host showing topic for episode on the difference between grit (Angela Duckworth) and grind

Grit v. Grind: Finding the Balance Between Passion & Burnout in Education

podcast Sep 27, 2023

As educators, we've long been encouraged to foster grit in our students - that indefinable quality that sees individuals through tough times and ensures they stick with tasks until they're complete. It's a concept popularized by renowned psychologist and author Angela Duckworth in her revolutionary research and book "Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance." But have we misunderstood the essence of grit? Could we be inadvertently encouraging a relentless, unhealthy grind culture instead?

Angela Duckworth's Grit - How it Benefits Students and Teachers

In her research, Angela Duckwork theorizes that "gritty" individuals possess four critical psychological assets - interest, practice, purpose, and hope.

  • Interest is the spark that initiates the learning process.
  • Practice is the constant refining and improvement of skills.
  • Purpose is the driving force behind the learning, the 'why' that motivates students to keep going.
  • Hope is the optimism and confidence that the goal can be achieved, even in the face of obstacles.


The Fine Line Between Grit and Grind

The concept of grit revolves around developing long-term goals, resilience, and passion. We strive hard to have students persevere in problem-solving. And as professional educators, we develop coping strategies to help persevere when the teaching gets tough. World pandemic, anyone?

But grit can be co-opted and weaponized when overapplied, becoming a synonym for an unending, unhealthy grind. This critical distinction is essential in education. As educators, we must ask ourselves - are we promoting grit or grind? And which one do we participate in ourselves?

Much of. Duckwork's research has focused on identifying why some students are more resilient than others and how "grit" has more to do with long-term outcomes than IQ. But cultivating these traits in our classrooms requires a delicate balance. A cornerstone of grit is encouraging students to engage in deliberate practice, continually seek improvement, and step out of their comfort zones. That's good. But when it turns into piling on more "busy work" or being insensitive to students' needs and circumstances, we venture into the "grind" territory.

When Grind Leads to Burnout

What about educators? The teaching profession often glorifies hard work, long hours, and dedication; we must rewrite the narrative. It's not true that the teacher who leaves campus last is automatically "a better and more dedicated" teacher than other teachers who are also productive and effective at setting boundaries and skipping out of school at a reasonable hour. 

Truly effective teachers overcome challenges and demonstrate resilience and determination without getting burned out. They prioritize self-care, maintain boundaries with demanding parents and administrators, and understand that busyness doesn't always equate with productivity. They seek to improve their skills and habits to make themselves more efficient. They know that simply "grinding" through all the extra work hours, to the detriment of their emotional, mental, and physical health, does not benefit students. 

If you are familiar with my work, you already know what I will say. "Your energy teaches more than your lesson plans." Right? How we show up matters.

A teacher who has been grinding to the point of burnout shows up exhausted, easily irritated, and low-key resentful that their job sucks the life force out of them. That's a recipe for disaster in a job where we must be "on" all day. Genuinely effective teachers show up every day energized, creative, and relaxed, ready to create a positive classroom culture.


When applied correctly, Duckworth's ideas are empowering but can be damaging if misunderstood. The grind culture, characterized by overworking and an imbalance in work-life, can lead to physical and mental exhaustion. On the other hand, true grit, characterized by passion, resilience, and a growth mindset, fosters a healthier, more balanced approach to work. It benefits students and teachers. 

Additional Resources 

Short on time? You can watch Angela Duckworth's TED Talk here. Did you know she was a 7th-grade math teacher?

Or read her book, "Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance" by  Angela Duckworth

Educator Friend, are you ready to take back control of your time and energy? Do you need a CRASH COURSE in:

  • Overcoming your blocks setting healthy boundaries?
  • The exact steps and scripts needed to "say" no in a student-focused way to demanding administrators and parents?
  • How to set boundaries with your teacher besties who interrupt your prep time?
  • The ULTIMATE boundary playbook with scripts for every situation in your educator life?

I GOT YOU! Give me 90 minutes - I'll give you results!


Learn More About the Self-Paced Mini Course