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"Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts." - William Bruce Cameron (and on a sign hanging in Albert Einstein's office)
"What is water?" said one fish to the other, illustrating that "the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about" (David Foster Wallace). One of these realities is that we teach competencies that can be easily tested and quantified rather than what is most important. This reality may seem obvious, but why do we keep doing it? If we strive to develop student agency, can we do a better job at taking agency ourselves for what we deem important?
Arriving with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards in 40+ U.S. states is tremendous pressure for schools to get results and to be masters of the Core as quickly as possible. Invoking the Growth Mindset as we accept the challenge of the Core standards will help our schools maintain the momentum and stamina we need to develop expertise.
How can schools set themselves up to cultivate Common Core experts? None of us is currently an expert in the CCSS. Expertise will emerge with classroom practice and experience implementing these standards with real students. It will emerge with the willingness to take responsible risks and to participate in collective reflection. It will emerge with strong collaboration and compassionate patience. These qualities are only gained in a risk-tolerant system through strategic, purposeful effort which includes timely, formative feedback.
3.3 million teachers will be asked to change their practices, routines, and lessons this year to align with the Common Core State Standards. That is a staggering number when you think about that many Americans essentially experiencing a major job change at the same time!
It is inevitable that with all this change, some of us will fail. We will mess it up. We will get it wrong and forget some essential component (of a standard, a lesson, a concept). Our central offices will mess up too. Trainings will go awry, resources arrive late, and support will be well-intentioned, but spotty. Are we prepared to tolerate this process and allow ourselves to take the necessary responsible risks to LEARN and grow?
I hope so.
As we navigate through life, we can either travel purposely in our desired direction or we can surrender to the winds like a drunken sailor.
If we simply go with the flow and let the currents take us where they may, we may not like the place where we end up. We may arrive decades from now at a place full of regrets. And if there are important challenges in the way that we, as a society, lead our lives, prepare future generations, and take care of ourselves and loved ones, then going with the flow may not lead us to a place that we like.
Are you letting the wind and currents take you where they may, or do you have a Northern Star?
If students are struggling, we want them to remain motivated, try harder, and stick with it. But what about the saying, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result"? If a student has tried to learn something, didn't succeed, tried the same thing again and again, and never felt progress, is he likely to think that trying yet again will yield results? And is that motivating or demotivating?
Emerging growth mindset research is generating new insights about human relationships. To what extent do we believe that human characteristics, other than abilities –such as being kind, joyful, smart, courageous or cooperative– are fixed versus changeable? Can each of those qualities be developed, or are they innate? Our answer deeply affect our perceptions and behaviors, which in turn affect the quality of our relationships and our collaboration with others.