Standards, Grittiness, and the Underdog

By on March 27th, 2014

resilienceIn his book, “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants,” Malcolm Gladwell  argues that the people we traditionally considered to be underdogs might actually have unique  advantages created by the very adversity they had to overcome. Gladwell uses the allegory of David  and Goliath to dramatize how David’s victory may not have been as unlikely or extraordinary as we are led to believe.  Perhaps, David relied simply on an unconventional approach and his own audacity to blindside Goliath.  His experience as an underdog forced him to view the situation differently and discover a creative solution to his problem.  David didn’t view Goliath simply as an indestructible giant. Rather, he saw a slow opponent, dragged down by his armor, and unprepared to battle a swifter, more prepared adversary.

Gladwell continues his theory by describing a seeming disadvantage, dyslexia, as a “desirable difficulty.”  Continue reading

Efforts vs. Smarts

By on January 10th, 2014

efforts vs smartsIn her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dr. Carol Dweck explains the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset and how this impacts our success in learning and in life.  Dweck argues we aren’t just “born smart” or with certain abilities. We have the incredible capacity to learn and grow every day. We can actually expand our brains and intelligence with our effort.

In fact, Dweck claims that “praising intelligence and ability doesn’t foster self-esteem and lead to accomplishment, but may actually jeopardize success.  With the right mindset, we can motivate our kids and help them to raise their grades, as well as reach our own goals – personal and professional.”

The underlying basis of the two mindsets, “fixed” and “growth” is illustrated in the chart below. Continue reading

The Real Win is in Losing!

By on November 19th, 2013

try againLosing is part of life.  In fact, it is one of the most valuable lessons one can learn.

We don’t get everything we want all of the time.  We can’t win every race.  Tasting defeat only allows us to savor victory and try harder the next time.  Learning how to lose teaches us how to win.

If a child knows they will automatically get a reward for showing up, what motivation is there to try?  If our students’ walls are adorned with ribbons and trophies for participation, we have done them a disservice.  We are teaching them that a promotion will be handed over on a silver platter, not earned.  Grades will be given based on attendance, not effort. Continue reading

You Can Learn the Impossible

By on September 6th, 2013

growth mindset neurons They say the first step is admitting you have a problem, so here goes… I am a brain science junky. Ever since my team started doing research 18 months ago, I’ve been fascinated with the science behind how humans learn. But it’s not just me. I’m seeing the work of Carol Dweck, Paul Tough, Sian Beilock, and Heidi Grant Halvorson show up in all sorts of non-educational publications and places. Sure, I work at a school, so it’s natural for conversations to revolve around grit and growth mindset, but last week I overheard preschool moms discussing it at the supermarket. Continue reading

Where Can I Get Some Grit?

By on March 25th, 2013

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

All the cool kids have it, or at least the successful kids. This ability to keep battling in the face of challenges seems to be the talk of the education industry. Paul Tough is talking about it in his new book. Angela Lee Duckworth is talking about at TED. Brian Williams is even talking about it on Rock Center. Apparently it’s the secret sauce. But where do I get it? Because I’d like to soak my son in it.

I understand the concept of teaching kids perseverance, self-control, and the importance of struggle in the learning process, but that’s not easy stuff for a fourth-grader and I need him to learn from his mistakes now, before I make another trip to the emergency room. Continue reading