Shifting Focus: Students Forget the “A” and Care About Their Clients Instead

While talking to the staff at Grit9, it’s difficult to believe they are only high school students. These young professionals prefer titles like President, Service Project Program Manager, WordPress Trainer, and Website Developer. Their teacher, or rather Director of Grit9, Mark Suter founded the EdCorp in his classroom last year to build a business within his Technology and Entrepreneurship classroom. Here are four key takeaways that we can all learn from Mark and Grit9.

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Grit 9 student works with a customer.

#1 Let Students Take Initiative

From making decisions to researching best practices, the Grit9 staff knows how to take the initiative in getting their projects done for their clients. These students are on a mission!

#2 Soft Skills Are Important to the Students

The Grit9 staff knows how essential soft skills are and what they are gaining through operating the business. They are learning to get along with difficult clients, communicate with each other effectively, and get beyond groupthink. Rather than just talking about skills like problem-solving, communication, and creative thinking, students have been able to use this opportunity to actually develop and practice them.

“It’s more about the connections made in class and in the community than it is about the technical stuff.”

~Mark Suter, Director of Grit9 


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Students created their own Grit 9 Designs website.

#3 Everyone Gets an “A”

How does Mark grade the students running Grit9? His response: “Strip away the grade, and it shifts focus to doing a good job for the client.” In Mark’s class, students have to shift from thinking “What do I need to do to get an A?” to thinking instead about the projects they are working on for their clients. They are working on a client’s specifications and if the client isn’t happy, it’s back to the drawing board. The learning is experienced rather than prescribed.

#4 Help Students Recognize and Remember Their “Why”

Every high school classroom has challenges – but when paired with running a business, the students may need a reminder to stay grounded in their motivations. When lacking motivation, Mark reminds students of their “Why? Why are we doing this work?” When seeing patterns of behavior develop, he finds teachable moments to talk the class through things. He also completes individual performance reviews to keep the students motivated and on track. The Grit9 team has fun, but they know and meet their deadlines, too. And maybe that’s the best way to learn – with a little fun and a lot of focus.

To check out the student-run business Grit9, click here.


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