What did teachers do last week when students had a day off from school?

Last week, while students were beginning their extra long weekend, their teachers came to school, ready to work and learn. The focus of the day was applied learning, which in its simplest terms has to do with how students apply what they have learned in order to demonstrate their understanding. In other words, what students do with what they know.

In the morning, we watched a movie together and had discussion groups. In the afternoon, nine faculty members presented things that they had been working on in their classrooms so that we could be inspired by and learn from our colleagues.

At the heart of our work was exciting thinking, conversation, and questions about the purpose of school and the most important skills needed in our changing world. I wanted to explain some of these ideas to the Upper Division Students, and so I showed them this short video in Morning Meeting.

In our moment of silence, I asked the students to reflect on how their work and our Habits for Scholarship and Citizenship connect to the qualities and skills described in the video. I hope that in that quiet moment, they began to think about the many connections that I see in classrooms each and every day.

My Favorite Words

My Favorite Words

I recently heard that right before vacation, students were wondering about my favorite word and debating whether it was “grit” or “yet”. I laughed when I heard this because I think that these things are both important and that, in fact, they are intertwined.

I think that yet is the foundation for not just grit for but for the other character strength words too – and for so many of the other things we learn and practice in school. I think that believing in yet (in other words, growth mindset) may be one of the most important foundations for learning and for teaching.

The thing I love about yet is that it is all about possibility. Instead of, “I can’t do that.” think “I can’t do that, yet.” Yet means that each one of us can get better, yet means that each one of us can learn the hard “stuff” of school – from English to math to art to science to demonstrating the Habits of Scholarship and Citizenship. Yet means that a belief in the ability to learn and grow and get better.

So, how do we get to the yet? Well, it is not always easy – the truth is that we get there with lots of hard work and practice, and that is where the grit comes in.

At Park, we think that practice and making mistakes and hard work and more practice really does get students to the yet. I have included two short videos which help explain some of the science and some of the thinking that’s out there that makes us teachers believe in the power of yet.

Brain as a muscle video

Carol Dweck video

It is really interesting to think about the brain as a muscle, and it is exciting to think about the fact that your brain does indeed grows stronger with practice and hard work, that intelligence is not fixed, that your brain gets strongest (which means you learn the most) when you make a mistake or when you are working through something that feels hard. How incredibly powerful that the science of brain research shows us that this is true. Thinking about the brain as a muscle that can get stronger with hard work and practice is key to believing in the power of word yet.

One more short video in this one, listen for the word yet.

You can do anything

In 2017, as we learn, as we work our way through the hard things, we need to remember the optimism that is embedded in the word yet and the gritty hard work that helps us to get there.