A response to Grit Vs Flow (David Didau)

First of all, read this:  http://learningspy.co.uk/2013/03/04/grit-vs-flow/  Sorry to send you away as soon as you got here, but this post is a response to David Didau’s article and is unusual for this site because it does rest on my personal experience and deals with the how, rather than the what.

Wouldn’t we all love to flow?  The feeling of elation at the realisation that we are absolutely flying – that our intellectual endeavours are all completely aligned and that the work we are producing is simply wonderful.  And not just intellectual – sportsmen talk of being in the “zone” and seem to be effortless when at the top of their game.  Artists float on a cloud of creative Nirvana… FLOW!
Consider whence it came.  For every second of flow, there is a record of hours of pain, physical and mental.  I have said before at school that the best lesson I have ever assessed by a GTP trainee was one in GCSE dance.  Here is the proof that flow is not a naturally occurring idea.  This was a lesson in which a dance routine was being created.  It was slow and painful with repetition and experimentation being the basic watchword.  The final product, which I witnessed at an assembly some weeks later did have some sense of flow, but all because of the GRIT at the early stage.  Without the GRIT, there would have been no FLOW whatsoever.
In my former life, I was a musician (although as my musician friends tell me, I was actually a singer…) and have experienced this at first hand.  The feeling of FLOW did not come often, but often enough to hint at this incredible feeling.  What the audience never saw was the hours of rehearsal – alone at a piano, with directors in drafty church halls and rehearsal studios, with orchestras and conductors…  At the end of this process, every now and then I felt FLOW – in Naples in Midsummer night’s Dream (sadly I was not showing my Bottom, only my Quince…), in Cologne in Elektra and in several concerts with the remarkable John Lubbock. But all because of the immense amount of GRIT required to produce anything of value.
Now I teach and I watch students preparing for exams ( the relevance to this blog becomes more evident from this point).  Some seem to imagine that success will be given to them simply because they turn up; others seem to imagine that if they wait long enough a teacher will magically tell them what to do -even in the exam, and some get it.  They realise that without GRIT and a great deal of practice they will not ever feel the FLOW.  It is the tricky things that need practice, not the shallow, skimming things – ask Jonny Wilkinson!  Without the GRIT, some might get lucky and fluke a good grade, but as soon as they need to look beneath or to call on skills not readily available, they will struggle.  In music and in education, there is an excuse for saying that technique is the root for success and that without a strong technique, success will last until the first genuine set back.
With this in mind, I look at my students and at those who I imagine are among the 70000 or so views on this site.  Are they Gritty?  Or are they playing at it?  Nothing comes without hard work both to achieve success and, once achieved to stay successful.
So to you all:
The recipe for FLOW:
hours of dedicated and focused study
repetitive practice of key skills
reading and re-reading set texts
bothering to learn the common spelling corrections that we so often point out
being prepared to actually write something without being instructed to do so!
research the examination formats and look at the advice on the exam board web site – don’t wait to be shown it
Be proactive
Use the EDMODO site to ask questions and to develop theories (that’s for my Year 11s).
All teachers have their own recipes, and mine will be different tomorrow.  That is not the point.  We want you to experience FLOW…  you will have to show GRIT in order to do so, but it is worth it!