“To live in places filled with yet.” These are the final words of Carol Dweck’s 2014 TEDx talk in Sweden. Almost everything we do in school is measured and quantified. The end of the year means outputs like final grades and standardized test score assessments. Performance is measured everywhere, from school to sports (baseball has a metric for EVERYTHING). I will admit, I have become somewhat of a numbers “geek” and enjoy the analysis. It helps tell the story and is extremely useful for planning purposes, however, numbers can’t tell the whole story.
The end of the school year always brings some good quality reflection time. There is a great deal of qualitative data that comes from this reflection. Stories from the year are remembered and reflected upon. Some very personal. Some include failures. Some celebrate triumphs. All remind me that nothing is ever finished when you are working in schools. A report card and a standardized test are just a snapshot of where you are now, as opposed to being seen as documentation of a finished product. Yes, the end of a school year brings with it closure, but it must equally be seen as a window to “yet.” Yet may just be my favorite word in the English language. Yet implies that there is more to come. Yet means there is more work to be done. Yet is essential for growth. Schools are in the business of growing human capital, and we must operate with the belief that nothing is fixed in the mind or body of a child (or an adult for that matter). I am working on many things, including my golf game and a consistent drive of 240 yards straight down the fairway. I am not there, yet.
I just re-listened to Carol Dweck’s Tedx talk, linked above, as I begin the process of reflecting back on the year. Take a listen if you have a chance. Dweck is one of my favorites, and she helps me get focused on what is important. I can also now say that she and I have something in common. We have both given Ted Talks. I am no Dweck, but I can at least say we have both shared “ideas worth spreading.” Check it out on the “videos” tab on this site. May your summer be filled with popsicles, pools, family, fun, dreaming, growth, a 240-yard drive down the fairway, and more “Yet” to come.
Each year in January we have the out with the old, in with the new phrases. As a relatively unhip person who spends most of his day with adolescents, I am privy to the hip phrases that take over the vernacular of teens and pre-teens. I am guilty of one particular phrase, however, “it is what it is.” I am not sure how “it is was it is” got so ingrained in my regular speak, but it did. I caught myself saying it again today! I was so hip to use a phrase that has become so overused. Not bad for an unhip guy but, it is time for me to bury the phrase.
While I am proud that I have never used the words “cra cra” other than in this blog post, I need some help breaking my bad habit of saying “it is what it is.” So, I employ all readers of this blog post (counting with my fingers and toes right now) to help call me out (politely please) when and if I use the phrase. A $.50 penalty will be my punishment for each use of the phrase. I will tally it up by March 15, 2015 and make a donation to one of the non-profit organizations we partner with at The Woods Academy. A good two months to break this habit should be enough time.Thank for your help to ensure that I remain “unhip.”
Learning is messy work. Teaching “learning” is just as messy. I started off our school year with this message, “Embrace the mess.” I recently read a blog post about embracing messy learning at Edutopia, a tremendous educational resource from George Lucas (Yes, the creator of Star Wars. And yes, the new movie comes out in exactly one year. I may declare it a school holiday). I digress.
I read the article and it got me thinking about why learning is so messy. So, bear with me for a paragraph or two regarding my “two cents” on the topic. Learning is messy because there is nothing uniform about learning. Contrary to the way most of us adults were taught, in straight rows with one way to solve a problem and everyone was required to learn material the one way it was taught. While that is a mouthful, it genuinely sums up my experience as a student. The teacher taught material one way and everyone was expected to learn it that way. This is a great way to build a car, not a child.
As I write this post, I am with my math class as they take a test. They are solving division problems using the algorithm that is most comfortable to them. Some will use traditional long division, while others will use the partial quotient method. Add the lattice method in there for multiplication and we have successfully taken us parents out of the equation for “helping” in math. Can any parents solve this problem (100% of the kids in my class prefer this method)?
Learning is messy because it should be. It is messy because our brains are activated in different ways. We record, analyze, code and create (to name a few skills) differently. Therefore we should expect that learning will be different as well. Good luck trying to find a room full of adults or kids who learn everything the same exact way. It doesn’t exist (unless you are on the planet of Kamino and are building clones for the Grand Army of the Republic). Sorry, another Star Wars reference.
Kids and adults will run into walls in the learning process. We will also have plenty of “Ah Ha” moments as well. Not everyone will “get it” at the same time or in the same way, and that is hard to accept. But, it should be expected and embraced. Embracing the mess is what leads to positive growth. My two cents.