Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Go Faster!

Charles Duhigg Smarter Faster Better—The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business

My sister is my hero. Looking back, I think it started when she dropped me off at college. I was going to live hundreds of miles from everything familiar, and our fourteen-hour pep talked gave me the confidence I needed to have this home away from home experience.  As we progressed through college, marriage, children, and a life, we would frequently call and catch up on our wonderful yet hectic lives. Inevitably before we hung up, one of us would close the conversation with our mantra, “Go Faster!”

When I received Smarter Faster Better, by Charles Duhigg as a gift from my sister I was touched by such a perfect, thoughtful, gift. It made me smile and reminded me of our phone chats. I was excited to read the book and to learn more about Duhigg’s findings on The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business. I wanted my every-day decisions to be more purposeful and innovative to support my personal life, career goals and frankly any wisdom I could glean as I am finishing my doctoral degree program.

What I appreciated the most from Duhigg was how he shared the key concepts of being Smarter Faster Better. My lessons learned came from the experiences of a business mogul, the cast from Saturday Night Live, an airline pilot, a rogue General Electric employee, a police crime detective, a professional poker player, a film director from Disney’s movie Frozen, and finally a new school teacher. The book was a page turner for me.

Each of their life experiences gave me better perspective on the components needed to be productive in a way that could change some of my bad habits. I learned how to get myself started and generate motivation through self-selected choices that deepen my values and long-term goals. I learned about the power of choosing a stretch goal first, then developing realistic SMART sub-goals to support my ambitions. Creating mental pictures and even a movie inside my head to envision my potential futures gave me perspective and alternative options. I learned the focused choices I made, could lead me to make better decisions to get things done!

“Productivity is about recognizing choices that other people often overlook. It’s about making certain decisions in certain ways. The way we choose to see our own lives; the stories we tell ourselves, and the goals we push ourselves to spell out in detail; the culture we establish among teammates; the ways we frame our choices and manage the information in our lives. Productive people and companies force themselves to make choices most other people are content to ignore. Productivity emerges when people push themselves to think differently” (p. 284). 

My sister and I still talk by phone, but not as often as I’d like. I also haven’t heard each other say, “Go Faster!” in a while. We are growing older, and our wisdom is showing. We have learned life is not a race but a journey to experience for ourselves and through those we love the most. Although as we are each reading this book, I am hopeful our future productivity will be Smarter Faster and Better.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Beyond Academic Proficiency

Thomas R. Hoerr the Formative Five—Fostering Grit, Empathy, and Other Success Skills Every Student Needs

It's Christmas Day, and the meal has been served, and the presents have been all unwrapped. We are all snug and content and in various states of stillness. The only audible sound is from the neighbor boys and dog next door--and they are joyfully loud. Squeals, shouts, and barks are clearly heard as they run and play their imaginary games. Their noise reminds me of the 394 students who attend our Title I elementary school. I worry. Where are they today, and are they too enjoying the company of friends and family gathered around their holiday traditions. Will their lives be full and happy to carry on these annual festivities?

At our school, are all working incredibly hard to ensure they have the knowledge and skills needed to venture into future opportunities and responsibilities. We are relentlessly focused on their reading achievement and celebrating their effort as they reach their self-selected goals and showing ownership and pride in their own learning. We are supporting their decisions to repair the harm and restore the relationships as they experience conflict with others. The learning culture has shifted, and it feels hopeful.

Although, after reading Thomas R. Hoerr’s book The Formative Five, Fostering Grit, Empathy, and other Success Skills Every Student Needs I was reminded there are many more essential skills to teach beyond academic proficiencies. Hoerr shares; “Social and emotional skills matter just as much in determining life satisfaction and success as traditional intelligence” (p. 7).   Hoerr promotes the responsibility we have as educators to move beyond just standardize achievement instruction. We also need to strategically teach those essential skills that are necessary to develop and cultivate social mindsets as our students grow toward adulthood.

Hoerr admits narrowing down the social and emotional skills needed for success in relationships, and the workforce was not a simple task. He used his research and the thinking of many well respected educational authors and informative academics to emphasize his five selections; empathy, self-control, integrity, embracing diversity, and grit.  Here are their words.

Jessica Lahey, (2014) author of The Gift of Failure wrote, “In order to be truly empathetic, children need to learn more than simple perspective-taking; they need to know how to value, respect, and understand another person’s view, even when they don’t agree with them.”

Charles Duhigg (2012) in the book The Power of Habit, “Willpower is a learnable skill, something that can be taught the same way kids learn to do math and say thank you’” (p.134).

First Lady Michelle Obama highlighted the importance of integrity when she said, “We learned about honesty and integrity—that the truth matters . . . that you don’t take shortcuts or play by your own set of rules . . . and success doesn’t count unless you earn it fair and square” (Cassidy, 2012).

Embracing Diversity
Jacqueline Woodson, author of books for children and young adults said, “Diversity is about all of us, and about us having to figure out how to walk through the world together.”

BrenĂ© Brown (2015), author of the book Rising Strong shared, “There can be no innovation, learning, or creativity without failure” (p. xxv). “Grit gives us the courage to take risks and to fail because we know that failure is a necessary ingredient in ultimate success.”

At the passing of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in December of 2015, the push to measure academic progress and the success of individual schools with just standardized test scores is changing. There are other vital skills needed for our children’s success now and as they grow and make life altering choices. Hoerr’s Formative Five gives parents and educators a new perspective on the additional skills needed for student’s future success in a global society.

Hoerr recently was interview on ASCD Learn, Teach, Lead, Radio by Rachel George, an ASCD Emerging Leader. You can hear his passion for this important shift in education first hand on this podcast. The joyful noise of student learning in every classroom should include instruction around social and emotional skills, to prepared our students for a bright and promising future.