Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Startling Statements

Over the past week I've worked with both Grade 4 and Grade 5 students on writing assignments that are summative assessments for their units of inquiry.  In Grade 4 students studied ecosystems during Sharing the Planet and inquired into various factors that were impacting them (for example pollution, global warming etc). Their summative assessment was to write a speech that could be presented at the UN to bring governments of the world together to try to save an ecosystem or tackle and environmental issue.  Students had to decide if they were going to save an ecosystem, which one should it be and why, or if they were going to tackle an environmental issue and which issue should be tackled first.  The teachers worked with the literacy coach to design the assessment and to teach the students techniques of persuasive writing.

In Grade 5 students have just finished Where We are in Place and Time.  In this unit they discovered that history can be learned through the study of people, places and artefacts.  For their summative assessment they chose a person, place or artefact that they wanted to research, and a curation tool for collecting their information and then had to decide themselves on a way to share their research with other students.

With both Grade 4 and 5, teachers worked with the students to come up with an attention grabbing beginning to their writing.  This could be a startling statement that would hook other students into their presentations.

As I was thinking about startling statements, I came across an article shared on Facebook by Kim Cofino.  This article was entitled Make Time To Do Your Best Work.  As I read it through, I found there were many attention grabbing, startling statements that seemed to speak directly to me.  I decided to share a few of them here.

This month I've started to take over the mentoring one of our student teachers, who is going to take over from a teacher who is due to start maternity leave after the Christmas holidays.  This mentoring is on top of everything I already do.  At the same time, because I'm thinking that I may need to take extensive periods of leave next year to care for my mother, I've also started to think about what is vital to do in my job, and what is not.  Could I drop 20% of my job, and spend that time with my mother?  The article I read today helped me to put some of this into perspective.

The first point made was that it's hard to say no - and that causes us stress as we are trying to do too many things and not getting satisfaction from doing them as well as we can.  Basically the only way of dealing with this is to say "No" to some things, so that we have more time to do other things well. It's not possible to be a multi-tasker and split our attention among many things:  to do our best work we have it give it all our attention.

But that's hard to do - and here comes the first startling statement:
A goldfish attention span is 9 seconds.  And as from 2015 a human is 8 seconds.
Many things suck at our attention - for example our phones, which apparently we check around 221 times a day!  If we eliminated some of these distractions (2-3 hours each day without wifi or phones) then that 2-3 hours of focused work would be equivalent to other people's 8 hours.  Cal Newport, in the book Deep Work writes "They may be working longer, but they will be doing shallow work." This is because when we get distracted it takes around 20 minutes or so to get back into the flow.

So here's another startling statement:
Most people don't ever do their best work because they give up before they have mastered all the skills required to do it.
According to Malcolm Gladwell everyone can learn the talent to do their best work, but not everyone has the patience to practice until they are good enough to deliver it.   And this is where passion comes in:  most people don't really love what they do.  If you do love it, then the passion to improve is what will drive you - and the practice will be fun.  Work will not feel like work when you love what you do:
10,000 hours of learning can be a short time when you love it.  Or an eternity when you don't.
So finally we get to purpose - which is the multiplier of effort.   When you have a reason, when your work matters, then you refuse to quit even when things get tough.  It comes down to this:  to do your best work it has to matter to you.  Knowing your purpose will help you be the best that you can.

Photo Credit: cusp kid Flickr via Compfight cc

1 comment:

  1. Dear Maggie - I enjoy reading your blog posts, and look forward to reading a new one every week. You hit on many topics, and support it with facts and quotes which makes it evenmore interesting! Thanks