Kismet

Inspiring Insight

Posts tagged ‘teaching’

“You’ve Got the Dream, but not the Drive…”* Featured

 

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From Grease*

Here is my second to last installment of research notes from Paul Tough’s book “How Children Succeed.” It’s lengthy, but the last few pages were especially insightful and inspiring!

 

Chapter 3: How to Think p. 105

  1. Sebastian’s Blunder

6th grader, played chess and lost a game

Elizabeth Spiegel – his teacher

They discussed each game afterwards, including how long he spent thinking of each move. “Two seconds” receives a “If you make a mistake, that’s okay, but if you do something without even thinking about it, that’s not okay.”

Spiegel was featured in NY Times 2009 because her low-income kids were beating wealthy kids at chess.

The secret? Spiegel sat with them and reviewed every game, emphasized the need to slow down and think.

 

  1. IQ and Chess

1997 Deep Blue (a chess=playing computer program) beat Garry Kasparov world chess champion since 1985.

In 1997, Jonathan Levitt proposed a mathematical relationshipo between IQ and chess prowess:

 

Elo~(10 x IQ) + 1000 (Elo is a player’s tournament rating)

Therefore, an IQ of 100 would yield a chess rating of 2000, tops.

Jonathan Rowson, Scottish grandmaster, completely disagrees.  “Your ability to recognize and utilize your emotions is every bit as important as the way you think.”

Two of the most important executive functions are cognitive flexibility and cognitive self-control.

Cognitive flexibility = ability to see alternative solutions to problems, to think outside the box

Cognitive self-control = ability to inhibit an instinctive or habitual response and substitute a more effective, less obvious one.

“Teaching chess is really about teaching the habits that go along with thinking.” Spiegel

“It’s like psychotherapy, you go over your mistakes and you try to get to the bottom of why you make them.” Spiegel  

Spiegel’s blog: http://lizzyknowsall.blogspot.com/

  1. Chess Fever

Spiegel is top 30 of female chess players in the nation

Chess became an obsession

  1. Calibrated Meanness

Spiegel wanted to encourage her students, but her advice was based on “I know you think you did something right here, but you’re wrong.” She felt mean all the time and had anxiety as a teacher.

She told kids they were being lazy and making stupid mistakes. She considered stopping this message but then they showed dramatic progress.

“Perhaps what pushes middle-school students to concentrate and practice as maniacally as Spiegel’s chess players do is the unexpected experience of someone taking them seriously, believing in their abilities and challenging them to improve themselves.”  p. 120-21

Challenge students to look deeply at their own mistakes, examine why they had made them, and think hard about what they might have done differently. ——> remarkably effective.

Spiegel taught her students grit, curiosity, self-control and optimism.

She also taught social intelligence: had them think about their actions and consequences when it came to friendships and trust.

 

  1. Justus and James

Justus – started playing chess in third grade – showed great promise

James – also very serious about chess. Had a brother in prison for murder. James was below in school, but studied chess 6 hours a day.

 

  1. The Marshall

The Marshall Chess Club – most prestigious in the U.S.

Founded in 1915 by Frank Marshall, chess champion

Offers a few free memberships to Spiegel’s students

Games last 4 hours against far superior players

“Spiegel reminds her students that the best way to improve your chess is to play against the best, even if they take you apart.”

James won a game against a 30-year old international master – surprising everyone

 

  1. Mastery

Chess can be an antidote to ADHD

Jonathan Rowson, Scottish grand master: “When it comes to ambition, it is crucial to distinguish between ‘wanting’ something and ‘choosing’ it.” If you want it, you will not get it and you’ll have unpleasant experience of falling short. If you choose it, you will reveal your choice through your behavior and your determination. Every action says, “This is who I am.”

There is philosophical question of whether chess is “productive” when it literally produces nothing. But chess players say it is a beautiful pursuit, “celebrating freedom above utility” – a celebration of existential freedom.

 

  1. Anders Ericsson’s theory: “In order to truly master any skill, you must have 10,000 hour of practice under your belt.”

Gata Kamsky: born in Soviet Russia in 1974, by a former box father.

Kamsky practice and studied chess 14 hours a day

Never attended school, never watched television, played no sports, had no friends

Father was violent and temperamental during chess matches

At 22, Kamsky quit chess, got married, attended medical school and then law school but could not pass the bar

Returned to chess in 2004. Is now the top-rated chess player in U.S. and tenth in the world.

His 10,000+ hours over rode the 8 year hiatus

 

  1. Flow  p. 135

Is it better to be interested in many things a little bit or be a lot interested in one thing?

“Flow (Csikszentmihalyi) – moments when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult or worthwhile.” A feeling of intense well-being and control.

 

You only experience flow if you’re good at something.

Spiegel believes that people who are not really good at anything are missing out.

  1. Optimism and Pessimism

Psychologists studied chess players

It was not better visual memories or quicker analysis…

Their ability to perform one particular mental task: Falsification

 

The only way to test a particular theory is to prove it wrong (Sir Karl Popper)

Individuals don’t test theories to look for evidence contrary to their beliefs. Instead, they look for data to prove themselves right = confirmation bias

Confirmation bias is a big problem for chess players.

Better chess players are pessimistic.

At the same time, it’s best if the player is optimistic about herself.

 

  1. Sunday  p. 141

James was extremely nervous. Coach told him to think about the game: “play slowly, take your time, be confident.”

He won.

  1. The Test

 

“For more than a year, James studied, solved tactics, played, analyzed his games, confronted his own mistakes and misunderstandings, and he did not give up. In the last year he has played 65 tournaments and three hundred and one rated games. He plays in tournaments until eleven o’clock at night, and then gets up early every morning to do thirty minutes of tactics before school. He has worked so hard, so patiently, for so long.”  (Spiegel)

Believed James could ace the specialized-school exam, based on his dedication and success in chess.

They both got discouraged during study sessions. James represented for Speigel, a challenging puzzle. He clearly possessed keen intelligence. He worked hard and tirelessly. Yes, he was below average in standard academic prectors. She was angry for him for how little non-chess information he had been taught.

The test is difficult to cram for. It reflects the knowledge and skills that a student has accrued over the years, through school, family and culture.

James did not get into Stuyvestant, but still had four years of high school ahead of him.

 

  1. How To Succeed

 

Mid-1990s: American college graduation rate was highest in the world

But now, U.S. has fallen to 12th in percentage of 25 – 34 year olds who graduate from a 4 year college. (We trail behind UK, Australia, Poland, Norway and South Korea).

The data suggests a class divide: wealthy students are increasing in graduation rates, the the most disadvantaged Americans are DROPPING in graduation rates.

1945 – 65, thanks to the GI Bill, soldiers went through college

Even children of factory workers attended college

College was an instrument of upward mobility – every generation reached a level of education that greatly exceeded the generation before….until recently

The problem is not ACCESS, but COMPLETION

According to a study of 34 member countries, the U.S. leads the world in producing college dropouts.

Puzzling: at the same time this is happening, a college graduate with a BA degree makes 83% more than one with a high school diploma.

Why are so many Americans dropping out?

 

  1. The Finish Line  (p. 150)

Best answer comes from a book titled “Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America’s Public Universities

Authors were able to gain access of data through 68 public universities, ACT board and College Board

For a long time, conservatives believed that “we push students to attend college when (some) are not smart enough to be there (low-income, low-IQ).

But in fact, this is NOT the case. Low-income, uneducated students went to colleges well BELOW their ability.  Undermatching led to dropping out.

ACT scores were not the indicator of college success. High school GPA was/is.

A 3.5 GPA from a rural high school vs. an urban one did not make much difference.

Duckworth found: standardized test scores predicted pure IQ tests and GPA predicted self-control.

THUS, a predictor of college completion is NOT how smart the student is, but motivation, perseverance, study habits and time management skills do.

Can we teach teenagers these skills?

  1. One in Thirty  p. 154

 

OneGoal, CEO = Jeff Nelson:  https://www.onegoalgraduation.org/  College graduation. Period.

When Nelson was teaching sixth grade, he told his low-income African-American students they could graduate if they just worked hard. And then he read the paper: Fewer than 1 in 30 black male high-school freshmen in Chicago would graduation from a four-year college by the time they were 25.

Nelson decided that teaching was not his true calling (despite being especially great at it)

Teach for America offered him an executive director’s role (national) at 24. He turned it down. Fell into a deep depression. His former students’ parents felt that they were losing all that they had gained with him. They asked what to do. He didn’t know how to help.

He prayed. He went into therapy. He wrote pages and pages of poetry. He was trying to find his mission.

 

  1. The Call

January 2007, Nelson received a call from Eddie Lou, a venture capitalist.

 

Lou had set up a non-profit with others called “Urban Students Empowered Foundation”

 

Afterschool program for juniors and seniors – tutored them to increase GPA and ACT scores

It was producing impressive results – all who entered the program made it into college

Nelson was offered him a job as executive director. He accepted.

Urban Students Empowered become OneGoal.

Nelson believes underperforming high-school students can transform themselves into high successful college students, but they need a highly effective teacher.

The second piece: A clear path to college

OneGoal helps students not just with their applications, but the entire college-admission strategy: choosing match schools (not undermatch), decide close or far away schools; write appealing application essays; finding scholarships.

Nelson realized they also needed help in staying in college.

He identified 5 skills necessary to offset any academic weaknesses for college success:

Resourcefulness, resilience, ambition, professionalism, integrity—leadership abilities

 

  1. ACE Tech

 

OneGoal introduced their new methods at ACE Tech, a rundown school in a slum area of Chicago

Some students were not convinced they would be successful and their families encouraged them to stay close to home and not shoot high.

 

  1. Test Scores  p. 166

 

Kewauna – no one in her family ever went to college – she was poor and struggling, but dreamed of going to college and having a job where she carried a briefcase.

Finished her junior year an almost-straight A student (A few A-s, but not a single B)

But she could not score higher than 15 on the ACT.

Nelson believes the ACT score reflects quality of education, NOT intelligence

 

  1. Kewauna’s Ambitions  p. 168

 

During her senior year, she got turned down by scholarships she had applied for

She felt depressed and discouraged, pessimistic

She recalled her two years in remedial school where she didn’t learn anything. “I could have been learning all this stuff that I needed for my ACT!”

At last, she got accepted by Western Illinois.

 

  1. Closing the Gap

1961, full-time college students spend 24 hour/week studying

1981, it fell to 20 hours/week

2003, it fell to 14 hours/week – with 12 hours hanging out with friends, 14 hours consuming entertainment and 11 hours computer fun and 6 exercising

For many affluent students, college is an opportunity to pledge for a fraternity or drink heavily or write for the student newspaper

 

Nelson sees it as an opportunity for his students to close the gap
Kewauna – introduced herself to each teacher, took notes in every lecture – wrote and starrred words she didn’t know and asked professors to explain – went to office hours frequently. Sat in the front (noticed other African-Americans sitting in the back and was disappointed); made sure she exchanged contact info witha couple people in each class in case she couldn’t get a hold of the professor.

When money on her meal card ran out, she didn’t eat for two days.

First report card: 2 B+, 1 A, and 1 A+

I’m a Teacher, Not a Martyr Featured

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Mr. Wright is leaving. He’s my daughters’ high school orchestra teacher. Everyone is deeply saddened because he’s an exceptional teacher and person. In fact, he just won the district’s exemplary teacher’s award. His students were crestfallen – he’s such an amazing teacher! This is his dream job. So why is he leaving?

Because he can’t afford to stay: His wife stays at home and he has children he must support and can’t with a teacher’s salary.

This is wrong.

One of my co-workers is a single mom and her two sons are not covered under health insurance because she can’t afford it. Every sniffle, ache and potential accident gives her great cause to worry.

This is wrong.

Arizona has been identified as the worst for teacher pay and teacher friendliness by at least two separate studies. More teachers are leaving than entering with each year. Even substitute teachers are in great shortage.

This is wrong.

It’s time to make things right in Arizona’s education system. You can ignore the symptoms of any illness, but that doesn’t mean it will go away.

Oops Featured

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Watercolor Markers with white gel pen

We encountered the word “knickers” in our reading yesterday.  My class didn’t know what they were…I recalled wearing “knickers” when I was really young – the loose pants that were bound at the knees. You know, like these:

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from Pinterest

Lesson learned: Do not Google “knickers” for a 5th grade classroom on the SmartBoard.

 

 

Amending… Featured

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Morning Doodle

 

He sighs as I speak

I’m his teacher

why talk about guns?

He loves them

I recount my weekend

driving up steep hills to find a lake

gunshots all around me

men with rifles and cans of beer (target shooting)

My dog was quivering beneath the seat

I express my distaste of weapons

Have I crossed a line?

THE line?

It’s a funny time…

 

When two comes before one

 

A Teacher Shortage, You Say? Featured

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Incomplete Monochrome  (need a white gel pen for detail work)

 

What could possibly be the effect should this continue?

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Solutions currently being considered implemented:

  • Hire teachers from abroad (Philippines);
  • Hire unqualified people;
  • Hire long-term substitute teachers;
  • Raise teacher pay

 

 

Moooo!

I assigned my 5th graders Powerpoint presentations on the early settlers (New England, Middle Colony, Southern Colony) and the rubric included a MAXIMUM of 5 words per slide.

“Ideally, you will choose an image that represents your topic for the slide – consider a primary source, such as a drawing – and then add key words that will remind you of the content for that slide,” I instructed.

 

“Five words? Only five words?” They asked.

“Yes. Key words to remind you of what to say.”

Because who wants to read paragraphs on a slide?

They went to work, buzzing like angry bees. This would require them to know the material very well.

The kids had a major cow over this.

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But they delivered expertly!

 

Speak Up

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Photo by tchompalov

Five years ago, I left a corporate job to go back to teaching. I missed the kids more than I wanted the money.

I was asked to teach the 4th quarter with sixth graders in a low socio-economic school. Their previous teacher abandoned the post. He never said goodbye, he just left. Of the 30 students I taught, more than half had fathers in prison. Every child qualified for free breakfast and lunch. One of the male students had very strange eyebrows. Someone told me that his older brother and a gang tied him down and shaved his eyebrows off. They never grew back quite right.

As I got to know the children, I realized most had been traumatized in a number of ways: neglect, verbal and physical abuse and (I suspected) sexual abuse.  One of my students was a sweet, round-faced boy. He wore the same pants every day and they looked dirty, but he was always kind. He was always smiling and he walked and talked slowly. I’ll call him Francisco.

One of the teachers had over 12 years experience at the school. She was extremely strict with all of the kids. I know she cared about them and wanted them to be successful, but she acted as if each child had a bull’s eye on their back. She was constantly barking orders and yelling.

We were outside, lined up to go back inside from lunch. Francisco walked slowly to line. Apparently, too slowly. This teacher yelled at him, “Who do you think you are? What are you trying to prove? Too cool to care?” We all stood, stunned. “When you walk, walk with purpose and walk fast! And tuck your shirt in!”

I wanted to explain that this was the way he always walked.

I wanted to come to his defense and vouch for his character.

I wanted to stop her from attacking him wrongfully.

But I didn’t. I froze.

 

It haunts me to this day. I should have stood up for him.

But he was Mexican-American. She was Mexican-American. I am Korean-American, an outsider, only to be there for 9 weeks.

This was their school, not mine.

I see now, I was wrong. It was our school. Right is right and wrong is wrong.

 

Never just stand by silently. Speak your mind when you see a wrong.

Otherwise, you’re participating in the injustice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

15 Down, 45 to Go

student paper

It’s that time again: Fifth graders write a research paper on a famous scientist/athlete/politician/artist. They will dress up as the celebrity and give a 30-60 second speech in first person.

Grading the papers can bring tears of joy or sadness.

It’s akin to the feeling when a student gives you an end-of-year gift with the message of thanks:

You are my favrit teacher.

Or,

You are grate.