Sunday, June 1, 2014

Food for Thought: Protect Your Kids from Failure

Dear all,
Apologies for not sending a Food for Thought last week but was absolutely frazzled with other admin work. Following the admin survey there were a number of very supportive comments about Food for Thought that have encouraged me to reflect. Hence from now on the Food for Thought article/ video that is the main focus will be sent by email and will have only a single focus. Next year I will create a blog that will expand upon the article and provide connected reading and resources for those who are interested in professional reading and dialogue.
I have shared this week’s article because the term resilience has become common usage in education speak and so has references to the work of Carol Dweck and Angela Duckworth about effort and grit.  As work by these authors was shared earlier in the year I thought it appropriate to even it up with these ideas from one of my favourite and less conventional commentators Alfie Kohn. Just something to think about in the words we use with students to help them grow as learners.
Have a good week,
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Protect Your Kids From Failure

"I call this BGUTI (rhymes with duty), which is the acronym of Better Get Used To It. 
If adults allow—or perhaps even require—children to play a game in which the point is to slam a ball at someone before he or she can get out of the way, or hand out zeroes to underscore a child's academic failure, or demand that most young athletes go home without even a consolation prize (in order to impress upon them the difference between them and the winners), well, sure, the kids might feel lousy—about themselves, about the people around them, and about life itself—but that's the point. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and the sooner they learn that, the better they’ll be at dealing with it.
The corollary claim is that if we intervene to relieve the pain, if we celebrate all the players for their effort, then we'd just be coddling them and giving them false hopes. A little thanks-for-playing trophy might allow them to forget, or avoid truly absorbing, the fact that they lost. Then they might overestimate their own competence and fall apart later in life when they learn the truth about themselves (or about the harshness of life). 

The case for BGUTI is, to a large extent, a case for failure. The argument is that when kids don’t get a hoped-for reward, or when they lose a contest, they’ll not only be prepared for more of the same but will be motivated to try harder next time. An essay on this very blog last year, titled “Why Parents Need to Let Their Children Fail,” cued an enormous on-line amen chorus. The journalist Paul Tough informed us, “If you want to develop [kids’] character, you let them fail and don’t hide their failures from them or from anybody else.” A casual Web search produces tens of thousands of similar declarations."

The above is part of the material used in the article below and will be an important part of our future plans as we move towards a Positive Educational approach to support our new Mission, Vision and Values.


Instead of Framing ‘Failure’ As a Positive, Why Not Just Use Positive Words?

"But the learning journey was not only for students. As Engestrom’s discussion sessions noted, teachers were caught up in a cycle of describing their students in negative terms: How would some of the students labeled lazy and apathetic complete such a project if they had never shown any inclination to care about school? Engestrom noted in the research that the discussion was an example of a “latent contradiction,” where students were lazy, but only when presented with projects inside the school system. Such contradictions, according to Engestrom, will not be fixed by isolating and abstracting the problem for analysis and data, but rather through a process called expansive learning, which involves questioning assumptions, modeling behaviors and experimenting with various models. In essence, the teacher roundtable discussions were as much an example of expansive learning as the final projects were for the students; teachers were forced to wrestle with their latent contradictions in a manner similar to students wrestling with their final project.
As teachers questioned their assumptions regarding student effort, they began questioning the manner in which they spoke of students. Without addressing the point of language specifically, teachers began using positive language to describe student effort and ability. Over the course of the roundtables, the amount of positive language used to describe students increased eight-fold.
Negative talk did remain in the discussions, but the positive discussion was an expansion of teacher language and enrichment. The experience was not isolated from the roundtables or the final project; what had happened was a cultural shift within the school where assumptions and contradictions were challenged and met with positive interaction."