Thursday, October 25, 2018

Why Practice?

We've all probably heard of Gladwell's 10,000-hour rule which means that if you do something for 10,000 hours, you become an expert. And we all know that what we do is who we are and what we become. That's why we have to be cognizant of our actions, how we spend time, and what we do day after day as well as the goals we have for ourselves and our lives.

As I dug into the data related to my teaching last year, I noticed that I needed to elevate the way I support student practice in math. Students who didn't do as well as others simply did not practice as much. Why didn't they practice? That question has all kinds of answers including the following:

  • little home support due to extraordinary circumstances
  • the type of practice I gave -- in some cases it was inaccessible due to the difficulty and amount
  • not enough good support with regard to organization, sticking to routines, checking over the work, and feedback
So this year, I'm focusing in on the area of practice with multiple efforts including the following:
  • a consistent weekly routine of at-home and in-school practice
  • regular review and response of student practice
  • regular meetings with students who are not meeting practice expectations to see how I can help more
  • contacting parents of students who need more support with regard to practice and working with them to find ways to support better and more practice
  • taking a close look at the kind of practice I ask students to complete as well as the amount and working for just-right fits in that regard
  • working with specialist teachers to design just-right practice opportunities for students who fall far from the mean of the class
  • time in class to catch up on practice, ask questions, and get extra help.
What has surprised me with regard to this goal is that so many children don't really understand the role of practice when it comes to learning. Many are just doing the work to get it done or receive a grade or response rather than to build their learning knowledge and capacity. They haven't solidified what it means to be a learner--a person that continually hones one's skills to master more and more knowledge, strategy, skill, and concept, a person who is reaching for betterment in life. 

Society, in part, is to blame for this. In our competitive society, we have emphasized being at the top and winning more than we have emphasized our development as happy, fulfilled individuals who build and maintain good lives on our own, with others, and in our communities and world. Now, however, I believe that most people recognize that winning is a relative term, and that it's better to seek knowledge and learning that fulfills us in ways that matter, ways that help us to live good lives. If you think I'm wrong about this, let me know as I'd like to hear your perspective.

In the meantime, I'll focus students in on what it means to practice, and the great strength that practice brings to our lives, ambition, mission, and happiness. Practice matters and I hope I'm successful in helping students understand this so that they can bring it forward in their lives and endeavors to reach fulfillment, happiness, and good living. Onward.