Got Grit? Greenwood Boys Do.

GritMuch has been written about ‘grit’ recently; in many circles it has become the “buzz word” of character strengths.  Rightfully so: Grit—a passionate commitment to a single mission and an unwavering dedication to achieve that mission— has proven to be a powerful predictor of success.  Gritty people see achievement as a marathon; their advantage is stamina.  Despite setbacks, they do not give up.  The impact of grit can be seen in many examples from who will last during West Point’s demanding “Beast Barracks” phase, to achievement on the National Spelling Bee, to student grade point averages, to teacher longevity and success in the workforce.  Here is leading education researcher Angela Duckworth presenting on grit in her well known TED Talk:

TED Talk /Angela Lee Duckworth – The Key To Success: Grit

For me, grit is powerfully reflected in Greenwood students’ journeys in memorizing and publicly reciting The Gettysburg Address or an alternative speech.  In this age of instant gratification, all of our boys held out a long term goal (understand and memorize the speech and master it to the point of public recitation), and worked over time to achieve that goal.  Some students were able to accomplish this in a matter of months, for others, it is a multi-year endeavor. What’s important is that our boys never give up—they keep working toward this goal even when they may have doubted their ability to achieve it, even when they were bored, or even when they would rather use their fee time in different ways… they kept persevering and kept their long term goal in mind.  And we all saw the results on February 13.

We talked about grit through throughout the “Gettysburg Process” and reinforced the many ways this character strength applies throughout life.  We reflect on grit when studying characters in literature and look for examples in our community to reinforce and celebrate grit when we see it.  I expect that each of the boys—those who recited and those who made progress and will recite next year— recognize the value of persevering toward a goal and see that they can accomplish something they might not have thought they could through dedication, practice, and …..GRIT.

And the best way to foster grit is through a “Growth Mindset” and an optimistic outlook.  If you believe you in yourself enough to take a risk and think you can achieve a goal with practice, you are obviously more likely to keep trying.  To learn more, try the 12 item Grit Scale, developed by Angela Duckworth, which provides insight into your personal “grittiness.”

– Stewart Miller, Headmaster of The Greenwood School


Greenwood Presents at FRED Forum

1-Stew at FredGreenwood School Headmaster Stewart Miller — along with rising high school Junior Stephen Collins and Alumnus Matt Blake (’88) — was recently invited to Vancouver, BC, to give the closing Keynote Address at Fred Forum, an invitation-only leadership incubator that brings together leaders and leadership trainers from corporations, NGOs, the military and the non-profit sector. FRED’s mission is to elevate the quality of leadership in the world through innovation in leadership and leadership development.

FRED provided an influential audience and valuable opportunity for Stewart to talk about changing the national conversation about learning differences.  He was able to share Greenwood boys’ stories of struggle and triumph, highlight the importance a new educational model, reinforce the importance of optimism, character strengths, and innovation in leadership, and bring awareness to the importance and value of being mission-driven.

1-Stephen at FredStephen Collins provided a powerful personal testimony about the struggles he endured when being misunderstood in school and the transformation he achieved at Greenwood. Stephen also spoke about his experience learning and publicly reciting The Gettysburg Address, as showcased in Ken Burns’ recent documentary, The Address.

Greenwood alum Matt Blake (’88) reflected on his personal journey with learning challenges, how Greenwood was a turning point in his life, and why reciting The Gettysburg Address at Greenwood so many years ago continues to hold importance and relevance for him today.

The presentation concluded with Stephen and Matt reciting The Gettysburg Address, which proved to be a very inspirational ending to FRED!

Fred logo

In a powerful and engaging final session participants were privileged to hear about the work of The Greenwood School. This school in Putney, Vermont was featured in a Ken Burns documentary ‘The Address’. It is a remarkable school where each year the students are encouraged to practice, memorize and recite the Gettysburg Address. The Greenwood School Headmaster, Stewart Miller, student, Stephen Collins and alumnus Matt Blake shared the fascinating story behind the adoption of the Address as a teaching method and the impact on the School and their students.

The Greenwood School supports students who encounter learning challenges. By providing a genuinely supportive environment that focuses on each individual’s potential, students are able to enjoy school, study, develop their confidence, overcome challenges and succeed. As alumnus Matt Blake highlighted, the confidence and sense of accomplishment developed at the Greenwood School – and by learning to recite the Gettysburg Address in particular – is something that endures throughout their personal and professional lives.

Innovation at Greenwood

At Greenwood, we believe in our students’ potential to become leaders.  Consider this:  compared to the general population, a disproportionate percentage of CEOs are diagnosed with learning and/or attentional challenges.

As we work to ensure that Greenwood continues to be the preeminent boarding school in the world for students who face learning challenges, we have launched three new initiatives that foster creativity, collaborative problem-solving, critical thinking and long-term success.

  • A Digital Arts Entrepreneurship class, in which students visit and learn from successful entrepreneurs and then utilize the new digital arts studio to create a product and launch an independent company. This venture includes product research, design and production, marketing, financial management and sales.
  • The Greenwood STEAM program is an inter-disciplinary, project-based exploration of concepts and techniques relating to science, technology, engineering, art and math. Emphasizing a hands-on experience of design, construction, testing, and improvement, the program encourages independent problem solving through projects originating with students — such as last year’s wind tunnel and hovercraft — and more formal instruction in topics including Applied Math and Robotics.
  • The Digital Playground offers students opportunities to explore website design, coding, IT infrastructure, computer repair, and server maintenance.

Executive Function Coaching

Greenwood students have been diagnosed with a wide range of specific learning challenges.  The most common diagnosis that our students share is weakness in Executive Functioning (EF) — the cognitive processes that govern an individual’s ability to plan, initiate action, sustain attention, monitor performance, solve problems in the moment, inhibit impulses, stick with a task to completion, and transition to another task. Executive Skills are crucial to success in school, at work, and in life.  Weak EF skills are a barrier to independence.

Neurocognitive research shows that there is a unique opportunity to help students improve their Executive Skills at this age level.  The Prefrontal Cortex, the part of the brain that controls Executive Skills, is the last part of the brain to develop – it does not fully mature until the late 20s.   It is also the most receptive to intervention in adolescence when students have the ability to be metacognitive (think about thinking).  The right intervention fosters new neural connections, changes the brain, and results in improved Executive Skills.

Recognizing this opportunity to address our students’ Executive needs, we are continuing our second year of clinical trainings in the Executive Functioning Coaching Model with Landmark College’s Institute of Research and Training.   We implement this coaching model most directly during advisor-advisee meeting times. At the conclusion of this year all advisors will have received over 40 hours of clinical trainings in this approach.  We are working with Landmark College to pilot what we hope will grow to be a formal Landmark College Certificate Program in EF coaching using Greenwood trainings as a model.

National Competition and World Premiere of “The Address”

On April 2nd Greenwood hosted the first Gettysburg National Competition, welcoming 28 contestants from 14 of our peer schools around the country — as far away as California and the Washington, DC area. It was a magical event with twinkling lights and lots of bravely memorized speeches. 1-DSC_0703We also had a special visit from University of Harrisburg Professor Craig Welch. He and his 15 students brought an art installation with the entire Gettysburg Address carved into 50 feet of stacked blocks! It was a wonderful way to commemorate Lincoln’s speech and the perseverance and grit it takes to memorize this complex speech and publicly recite it from memory.  Each year we are inspired by our students’ abilities to push through fear and self-doubt and ultimately triumph.  We know this is a confidence-building memory and important rite of passage students will hold in their hearts for years to come.  With so much dedication, courage, and passion in each delivery, and with every student achieving a personal victory with each recitation, this was certainly not an easy decision for our illustrious judges!

1-DSC_0854After the competition, we were fortunate to attend the sold-out world premiere of Ken Burns’ The Address at the Latchis Theater in Brattleboro. This remarkable film is a genuine, powerful, and inspirational portrayal of our students’ journeys and celebration of their triumphs.  The feedback from the crowd during the premiere was overwhelming. Especially moving was when Ken spoke about Greenwood’s “special sauce” being the love and care the school has for these boys.  We are thrilled to have the opportunity to share the transformative work we do at Greenwood with a larger audience, and to have had the opportunity to host such brave and talented students and their families from peer schools all over the country.

Greenwood School In Partnership with Landmark College

Just a few miles from The Greenwood School stands Landmark College, which offers both two- and four-year degrees for students with learning disabilities.  Like Greenwood, Landmark College features a very low student-to-faculty ratio, a multimodal approach to learning, and a philosophy that emphasizes strengths rather than deficits.

Last September, the Greenwood School signed a memorandum of understanding with Landmark College, laying out new ways in which the two schools will work together. The initiative created an internship program through which Landmark College students serve as teaching assistants at Greenwood; an Educational Technology and eLearning partnership; a venue that will allow Greenwood seniors to earn college credits at Landmark; and a professional development program for Greenwood educators offered by the Landmark College Institute for Research and Training (LCIRT).

Landmark students have visited the Greenwood campus, participated and observed classes, and met with Greenwood students to share experiences and stories.  Greenwood students have also visited the Landmark campus to get a taste of college life.  Our faculties have met to discuss common issues around specialized instruction, application of technology, and common approaches to working with students who have executive function needs. These initiatives have benefited both institutions and we are delighted by this growing partnership.

Cerealism Artist Michael Albert Comes to Greenwood

1-photo (8)-001New York pop artist and author Michael Albert visited Greenwood for an exciting presentation followed by a half-day art workshop.

1-photo (8)Greenwood students and faculty enjoyed making cubist mosaic cereal-box collages – “Cerealism” –and working side-by-side with Michael as he created an original piece just for Greenwood.


This is Michael’s beautiful rendition of The Gettysburg Address.  Check out Michael’s other work at!

1-Michael Albert

Ken Burns appears with Katie Couric to discuss “The Address”

Ken Burns appeared live this week on Katie Couric’s show to discuss The Address, his upcoming documentary film about Greenwood students learning and reciting The Gettysburg Address.  “It’s such a love letter, I think, to both the kids and the teachers at the school,” said Couric.   “Just seeing the teachers in the film, it … almost makes you cry.  They’re so dedicated and so loving.”   Burns noted, “It’s a great story, and to watch these kids do it just inspirits you. . .  When they perform it about this time, mid-February, it’s just so moving to see, as Lincoln says in the address, a new birth of freedom.”  The Address will premiere in Brattleboro, VT on April 2.

Students Perform Service to Honor MLK Day

Over half the Greenwood boys came together to honor Martin Luther King,Geo and Ned Jr.’s  legacy with a day of service, completing over 40 hours of work! The boys completed an array of projects in support of the Vermont Foodbank and its related programs that support food insecure individuals and families around the state. Projects included work at the VT Foodbank warehouse, cleaning and sorting incoming donations, as well as various shopping excursions to help stock staples that are in high demand this winter.