Saturday, 8 February 2014

Day 30: West Philly

What went well?

  1. Went for a walk to West Philly with a friend. Discovered a few wonderful things on the way, including a farmer's market (!!!!) just a couple of blocks away, a food co-op, and lots and lots of cool caf├ęs. Will definitely keep exploring, especially by foot.

  2. This is a bad photo, but if you look closely, there are tables with lots of fresh produce.
  3. Started a Coursera course, Teaching Character and Creating Positive Classrooms. So far, the videos are really excellent. It's free, so if you're at all interested in positive education, and the role of self-control and grit in success, I highly recommend it!
  4. Watched a series of one-act plays on campus. There were 6 plays in 2 hours, and they were all very compelling and thought-provoking. Theatre really does illuminate a lot about the human condition, human psychology and of course, human suffering. I must see more shows.

What did I learn? 

  • Summerhill is a radical approach to schooling that began in the 1921s. Basically, the goal is to raise happy, creative and confident children, they don't have to go to class if they don't want to, learning is self-directed, children are treated as equals, and they run their own community and create their own rules in a democratic fashion. It was really interesting to read about this philosophy and I look forward to discussing it in class on Monday. Also, they still exist to this very day!
  • Dr Duckworth and other researchers are trying to figure out whether and how we can teach grit (being able to stick with and maintain passion for long-term goals, even with frustrations and set-backs). They're starting by trying to clear up common misconceptions that kids may have about practice:
    1. The amount of practice required to master a skill ("how much practice matters")
    2. The role of failure in mastering a skill ("practice is not fun")
    3. They may undervalue the role of feedback
  • A couple of strategies Dr Duckworth uses to cultivate grit in her own family:
    • Everyone has to do a hard thing - something that requires deliberate practice, setting specific goals, practicing outside of skill level, getting feedback, repetition for mastery. They are allowed to quit the hard thing, but only after the tuition payment is up (i.e. after that semester), when they can make a mindful & reasoned decision to do something else, but they can't just quit in the middle and when things get hard.
    • She uses language very intentionally. When her kids practice the viola/piano, she doesn't only praise the times when it sounds really good, but also says things like, "Wow, that sounds like you're really working on the hard parts, you're really doing deliberate practice," because although those are the parts that don't sound good, you have to reward kids for the struggle if you want to cultivate this quality in them.

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