Friday, March 25, 2016
“You become a winner because you’re good at losing.” - Seth Godin
You know that “Ah-ha moment?” It was an epiphany for me. Upon reading it I instantly recognized that we’re all losers. We lose all the time. To be human is to make mistakes, lots of mistakes, little ones and big ones. But if we’re good at losing, if we pay attention when we fail, we learn and make progress toward being a winner. And, of course, the descriptors “winner” and “loser” are misnomers to begin with. More appropriate would be terms like “progressors” and “quitters,” recognizing the on-going nature of effort.
What can we do with this thought? Surely we’ve all exhorted our students to persist with their learning… or have we, really. If we test and give a score which recognizes only relative success and failure, are we not sending another message? So what if we do the opposite? Suppose we thank kids for their effort on the test and openly point out what “we still need to work on” and then set about working on it.
In no way am I trivializing the difficulty of doing this. Most typically, students’ performance on any task distributes like the bell curve. Some do very well, some do very poorly, most to an adequate job, but show signs of minor need.
I think that this underscores the need to create tasks that, whenever possible, challenge kids at their ability level. While particularly difficult in math, it is not so difficult in other subjects. Writing prompts can be given so that students may bring current skills and knowledge to bear on the task. I’ve written often about the Accelerated Reader’s ability to challenge students at their current ability level. Even when working from a basal, questions that tap the “What do you think?” and “Why do you think that?” domains challenge kids to bring what they already possess “to the table” in examining reading selections and yet be challenged to go a bit further.
Without a doubt, the final piece of the puzzle is the teacher. To personalize the learning experience and support growth, the teacher must find the means to interact with each student, making sure that the student is challenged to do just a bit more, to go just a bit farther. And, if this challenging mentality is displayed publicly in the classroom, the example will be set for all.