A full day of learning and sharing at #VAIS2016

I spent the day today attending and presenting at the Virginia Association of Independent Schools Leading Learning Conference (#VAIS2016) and had a blast! The day started with a thought-provoking keynote presentation from Jessica Lahey (@jesslahey), the author of the book The Gift of Failure. If you have not read her book, I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy and share it with every parent and teacher that you know. I have given copies of the book to the parents of my advisees and will be facilitating a book club discussion on the book with our parents’ association this winter. My presentation on the neuroscience of learning followed Jessica and was well received by the crowd of approximately 350 Virginia educators who had assembled. After a couple of concurrent sessions that included a wide range of interesting and engaging topics, the day was over and I was exhausted. Exhausted but energized at the same time by the plethora of ideas that I came away with after engaging with fellow educators for an entire day of professional development. Kudos to the VAIS staff who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to put together and pull off a fantastic day of sharing and learning!

Now on to the Friday 4 items for the week.

  • Should School Be More Confusing? is a piece written by John Spencer (@spencerideas) that I serendipitously ran across this week that dovetails nicely with one of the themes of my talk, namely, desirable difficulties.
  • Are We Afraid to Let Students Make Mistakes? appeared on the Faculty Focus website this week. I bet Jessica Lahey would have a few things to say about the ideas in the piece! 😉
  • I found a new blog that I truly love this week after reading a piece shared by a member of my PLN. Here is one of my favorite posts from the site, Farnam Street, that really resonated with me. How To Think.
  • Here is a nice short piece from the teachthought website that is pretty self-explanatory: 20 Observable Characteristics Of Effective Teaching. How many of these characteristics are observable in your classroom?

Friday Four 10/5 – The Dirt on Grit

 The Dirt on Grit

There has been a great deal of coverage in the media of late following the publication of the book How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough. I have followed the discussion with a great deal of interest always trying to figure out how I could best incorporate the ideas into my work with students. The topic is of particular interest to those of us at Loomis Chaffee since we launched the Norton Family Center for the Common Good this fall. You can read a brief intro to the Center and its Director, Al Friehofer (LC ’69) here.

On the face of it, the concept of “grit” makes perfect sense and seems like a no-brainer. As with most topics in education, you really need to dig a little deeper (to expose the nitty-gritty?) and be willing to read/watch pieces from both sides of the issue as you decide how to best incorporate the ideas and philosophies into your own life and work with students. To that end, this week’s Friday Four includes a few of the perspectives that I have run across that address the topic of “grit.” I have tried to give you a range of opinions on the topic so that you can wrestle with the underlying themes and decide for yourself where you come down on the issue. I encourage you to explore beyond these few links and engage your colleagues in discussions about the topic…it is an important one for education and educators.

  • The NYTimes reviewed Tough’s book in August of this year. If you are unfamiliar with the book, this might be a good place to start.
  • Education Nation featured the topic in one of their panel discussions during their most recent summit in NYC.
  • Valerie Strauss, the education writer for The Washington Post, wrote a piece recently that is more critical of the “grit” mantra, as she puts it.
  • The Huffington Post featured a piece from outspoken education writer Alfie Kohn that also calls into question the “failure is good” theme that is a cornerstone of the the “grit” discussion.
As always, I welcome your comments or feedback. Enjoy.