I have trouble relaxing, as anyone who knows me well can attest. I’m a fairly laid-back person, but it’s extremely difficult for me to ever get my brain turned all the way off. There’s always some school-related thought process running in the background.
I assume that’s why I started thinking about school while we were on vacation last week. There was a young girl – maybe 8 – playing frisbee with her dad in the surf.
She wasn’t very good at frisbee. In fact, she was absolutely terrible. I mean it – she was potentially the worst person I have ever seen attempt to throw or catch a frisbee.
And a couple of things occurred to me:
First, she can’t be good at frisbee without going through the part where she’s terrible at it. And that’s true for every skill on earth: being really bad at something is the most important part of getting really good at it. If we’re not willing to go through the part where we’re bad at something, we’ll never be good at it. This is an extremely important principle for our students – particularly in crucial skills like reading and math. One way I’ve dealt with this in my classes is to ask students to put the word “yet” on the end of their negativity.
Instead of “I can’t diagram sentences,” say “I can’t diagram sentences yet.”
Instead of “I’m just not a math person,” say “I’m just not a math person yet.”
Instead of “I can’t make a left-handed layup,” say “I can’t make a left-handed layup yet.”
That one word turns a sentence about failure into pure optimism. I know it’s cheesy, but it’s something I do inside my own head, and it genuinely helps my mindset.
Consider frisbee girl: “She wasn’t very good at frisbee yet.” It’s a completely different sentence, isn’t it? The idea that she’ll be good at frisbee eventually is now built into the sentence. It feels like an inevitable fact, instead of an option.
The other thing that occurred to me as I watched the frisbee game was this: It didn’t even bother the girl that she was bad at frisbee. It didn’t bother her because “being good at frisbee” wasn’t the reason she was out there. Frisbee was just the HOW; her WHY was “I love spending time with dad.”
I keep a sign over my desk: “Until you have a WHY, none of your HOWs or WHATs will matter.”
What is our WHY at Edgewood? For me, it boils down to a couple of simple things:
I want our students to live lives that are meaningful to themselves, their families, and the world around them.
I want our students to love learning.
It’s not much more complicated than that. The grades, the schedules, the lessons, the test scores – those are all WHATs and HOWs. The WHY has to be kept at the forefront of everything: Meaningful lives, lived by people who love learning.
For more on WHY, you might want to check out Simon Sinek’s book Start With Why. And remember, if you go through the Amazon Smile program, Edgewood will get 0.5% of your purchase price sent back to us at the end of the quarter.
Go Wildcats, and as always:
Thank you for trusting us with your children.
For years in the classroom, I kept a sign on my door with a quote I stole from Seth Godin:
“Writing is organized, permanent talking.”
I love that line because it helped me assuage some students’ fears about writing. “Just have a conversation with me – but do it on paper,” I’d tell them. “We can always make it formal and fancy later – the first job is just to find some ideas worth dressing up, and you do that by talking it out on paper.”
That’s what this space will be – a chance to have a written conversation with the EA family.
My goal is to get one post per week up. It may be about some reading or research I found interesting. It may be about a question I have for our community. It may be to highlight the accomplishments of a student or classroom. (And, honestly, in March it will definitely be to set up the Edgewood Final Four Bracket Challenge.)
Most importantly, I think it’s a way to be transparent and intentional about the sort of culture we’re building at Edgewood. I think one great way to build culture is to read the same things, since it creates a shared set of expectations, a shared vocabulary, and some philosophical “rallying points” that a community can circle around.
This summer, the staff is reading a book called “Teaching With Love and Logic,” by Jim Fay. The central premise of the book is not complicated:
Students are human beings who make choices. One of the primary jobs of a school is to create a structure that lets students experience the logical outcomes of their choices, and then provide reasonable reinforcement for the right choices – or calm, empathetic, rational guidance about how to avoid future wrong choices.
I can’t say enough about how much this book has impacted my career in the classroom. If you’re interested in reading along with us, the book is available from the Love and Logic website. There’s also a companion book for parents called Parenting With Love and Logic.
And, finally, I’d like to mention Linchpin by Seth Godin. At my previous school, I gave a copy to every graduate. It’s likely I’ll continue that tradition at Edgewood. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read about the sort of person anyone can become, if they’re willing to find the thing they love and devote their life to the mastery of that thing.
(If you click any of those links to buy a copy, remember to go through Amazon Smile and Amazon will send 0.5% of your purchases back to Edgewood.)
If you read any of them, I’d love to hear your thoughts or questions. Feel free to email or use this link to schedule some time to chat in the office or on the phone.
Go Wildcats, and, as always:
Thank you for trusting us with your children.