Month: January 2015

Grit, is this too easy?

It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s sports or education the focus should more on be on grit than on ability. Valedictorians are not always the students with the highest IQ and a state champ isn’t generally the most athletic but they achieve at the highest level because they simply won’t accept anything less for themselves.

A few of the most powerful things we need to look at in this piece are:

The speakers definition of grit; that it is sustained will over a lengthy time period. We tell our athletes that you can’t have a good practice every now and then and be the best and the same is true for education. While this is often difficult for young students and athletes to understand we need to be teaching it from a young age so it can become more ingrained in our students mindset.

Growth mindset; People who have growth mindset do look at failure the same as people with fixed mindset. Talk to the best athletes in the world and they will tell you of their failures almost as often, as sometimes more often, as they speak of their successes. But they all talk about using them as a learning platform and how they made them better. We need to be teaching this to our students; miss a bunch of problems on a test, ok how do we learn from this and get better. Failure is many times the most important learning tool we almost never use. Teachers, good teachers, fail at instruction on a regular basis. The difference between good teachers and not bad teachers is how they recognize a failed lesson, evaluate what did and did not work and why, and make the proper changes. Mediocre employees, athletes, teachers, etc. recognize the failure and say “well I’m not going to try that again.” That is a fixed mindset and it dooms people to failure.

While we don’t really know exactly what it is that makes kids gritty “we need to be gritty about getting our kids grittier.” Maybe the most powerful part of the speech.

 

As I have continued researching into this I have come across some very good counter points. Here is a link to an Alfie Kohn response:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/04/08/ten-concerns-about-the-lets-teach-them-grit-fad/

I have a ton of respect for Mr. Kohn and his insight into education is some of the best you will ever come across. I have to say, maybe I was too quick to jump on the easy response.

Communicating student progress to parents more effectively

Report cards and parent teacher conference:

We all know the point of report cards is to communicate to parents the amount and quality of progress their students have made throughout a set time period. But do they do that effectively? Do students and/or parents understand the difference in progress between a B and a C letter grade? Did the student forget to carry numbers on a few problems on a test and get a low score on that test or is it because the student still doesn’t understand how to carry numbers? Parents often report that they have a much better understanding of how their students are performing after parent teacher conferences because teachers are able to convey to parents actual information that students are working on, understanding, or not understanding. We all know students are generally not able to give parents a good understanding of the concepts that are being covered in class but parents get this information when they attend these conferences.

We all know that parents are more likely to attend parent teacher conferences of students in the primary grades and attendance diminishes as students enter into higher levels of secondary schooling. Because of this it is vital that we seize the opportunity to give parents more information about their student’s progress during this time. If we combine this with the fact that students who are successful at the primary grades are more likely to be successful in secondary grades it becomes even more important that we give parents as much information as possible, and simple letter grades on report cards don’t seem to be sufficient.

My question is: Should we increase the number of parent teacher conferences during the school year from two to at least four, at least in grades k-8 where parent attendance tends to be much higher? Typically we have one first semester and one second semester but we have report cards sent out every nine weeks. There also seems to be a trend of schools scrapping these conferences during the second semester. If parents are truly going to understand their students progress shouldn’t we as an institution of learning give parents the opportunity to get more frequent updates on their students progress? I will even go as far as saying that there should be a conference at the end of the year to give parents an update of potential problem areas for their students as they enter into the next school year. These would be more important as students move from elementary to intermediate/middle school and from middle school to high school.

 While this idea will certainly be met with some criticism; what about those parents who rarely, if ever, attend their students conferences, or the added time this would eat up for already over worked teachers, etc. My response to this would be that in the long run we should be working to give our students and their parents the greatest access to high quality information about student progress. By doing this more parents will better understand their students actual progress in school and this will lead to better parent support at home which will help schools in the long run.


I welcome any feedback that can be provided.