We will never know our reach unless we stretch. (Heath, 131 pag.)
When students don’t make errors, it’s probably because they already know the content and didn’t really need the lesson. (Hattie, 17 pag.)
Whack! One second everything was fine, then, for a fraction of a second, black. Kah-whop! I could see my phone, which used to be in my back pocket, hit the ice and slide about 8 feet in front of me. Searing, hot pain surfaced in my left knee. It’s like I have a view from the ceiling. I can see myself face down on the ice. Cold. Wet.
I return to my eye’s view. I am really not sure what to do as I watch a nice soul skate over to my phone and bring it to me. While it was only a few seconds, it felt like 5 minutes of slow motion. I was upright by then; no longer spread eagle face down on the ice.
A sweet young thing glided up and laughed at me. “Ouch!” I heard myself say, “Don’t laugh! I’m hurt, and I don’t think I know how I’m gonna get up.” I saw her flinch but not leave me. My eyes confirmed that I was in a crowd and no one seemed to know what to do but stare. #NotGood
The music teacher—“a woman with a beehive-ish hairdo and a seemingly permanent frown on her face”—led the choir in a familiar song, using a pointer to click the rhythm of the song on a music stand. Then, Sloop remembered, “She started walking over toward me. Listening, leaning in closer. Suddenly she stopped the song and addressed me directly: ‘You there. Your voice sounds . . . different . . . and it’s not blending in with the other girls at all. Just pretend to sing.’ ” The comment crushed her: “The rest of the class snickered, and I wished the floor would open and swallow me up.” For the rest of the year, whenever the choir sang, she mouthed the words. (Heath, 141 pag.)
Whatever momentary lapse in concentration caused me to fall – splat – did not feel good. And the laugh, while meant to make light of an awkward situation, was crushing. It was a mistake and a painful one at that.
We hear it at school. We want our learners to be risk takers, to work on the edge of their ability, to fail faster, fail up, fail forward. Right?
Get out there! Try something different! Turn over a new leaf! Take a risk! In general, this seems like sound advice, especially for people who feel stuck. But one note of caution: The advice often seems to carry a whispered promise of success. Take a risk and you’ll succeed! Take a risk and you’ll like the New You better! That’s not quite right. A risk is a risk. (Heath, 131 pag.)
Errors help teachers understand students’ thinking and address it. Errors should be celebrated because they provide an opportunity for instruction, and thus learning. (Hattie, 16 pag.)
And just like that, she arrived. An angel on the ice. As she stretched out her hands, palms up, she said “Just take my hands.” I could get one foot square on the ice, though I felt like I was buried in a foot of snow, and then the other. Patiently she said “Now look at me and just press down.” I was up; shaken, but not broken. Her beautiful brown eyes connected with mine and she smiled warmly as she said firmly “you are up and you are fine.” Just as quickly and elegantly as she arrived, she floated away.
Then, in the summer after her seventh-grade year, she attended a camp for gifted kids in North Carolina called the Cullowhee Experience. She surprised herself by signing up to participate in chorus. During practice, she mouthed the words, but the teacher noticed what she was doing and asked Sloop to stick around after class. The teacher was short and thin, with hair down to her waist—a “lovely flower child,” said Sloop. She invited Sloop to sit next to her on the piano bench, and they began to sing together in the empty room. Sloop was hesitant at first but eventually lowered her guard. She said, “We sang scale after scale, song after song, harmonizing and improvising, until we were hoarse.” Then the teacher took Sloop’s face in her hands and looked her in the eyes and said: “You have a distinctive, expressive, and beautiful voice. You could have been the love child of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez.” As she left the room that day, she felt as if she’d shed a ton of weight. “I was on top of the world,” she said. Then she went to the library to find out who Joan Baez was. “For the rest of that magical summer,” Sloop said, she experienced a metamorphosis, “shedding my cocoon and emerging as a butterfly looking for light.” (Heath, 142 pag.)
My knee still throbbed and most of me was shaking. I limped over to the edge of the rink until I could steady my nerves. I’m not sure which hurt worse, my knee or my pride. In either case, it hurt. But, I was up and I was fine.
The words, tones, facial expression, and body language we use with our learners matters.
Memorizing facts, passing tests, and moving on to the next grade level or course is not the true purpose of school, although sadly, many students think it is. School is a time to apprentice students into the act of becoming their own teachers. We want them to be self-directed, have the dispositions needed to formulate their own questions, and possess the tools to pursue them. (Hattie, 32 pag.)
How might we highlight what is going well for our young learners, accent the positive, and gently guide them to stretch, risk, and reach? What if we craft our feedback so our learners know we believe in their ability and expect great things even when they stumble, fall, and hurt? What if we guide their apprentice work to learn to use needed tools and hone their skills.
Our hopes and dreams for learning don’t include pretending – just stand there and mouth the words. Our learners must emerge as butterflies.
What type of feedback are we practicing? Laughter to make light of a stumble? Calm, “take my hand and push; you are fine?”
The promise of stretching is not success, it’s learning. (Heath, 131 pag.)
What great mentors do is add two more elements: direction and support. I have high expectations for you and I know you can meet them. So try this new challenge and if you fail, I’ll help you recover. (Heath, 123 pag.)
Hattie, John A. (Allan); Fisher, Douglas B.; Frey, Nancy; Gojak, Linda M.; Moore, Sara Delano; Mellman, William L.. Visible Learning for Mathematics, Grades K-12: What Works Best to Optimize Student Learning (Corwin Mathematics Series). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.
Heath, Chip. The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact. Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.