Friday, February 18, 2011

Reflective summary

I believe in a lot of ways the book supported a lot of what I have believed for years. I was intrigued from the start. Daniel T Willingham did a wonderful job of summing it up. I must say I was suprised when he commented that the brain was not for thought but it actually avoided thought. The idea that the brain relies on memory makes sense. When I started reading I would come to a section that I had either heard about or studied before. When I would do so it would spark something in my mind and make me want to hear more about what he had to say about it. One example of this was when he was talking about long term memory, working memory,critical thinking, remote memorization, mnemonics etc. Another is when he talked about "Implications for the Classroom" in Chapter 4. I attended a workshop at one time that talk about similiar items and this brought up the memory of what I heard.

One of my favorite parts of the book was the ideas he refered to in Chapter 8.
'Praising Effort, Not Ability' is something that I see a lot of teachers forgetting. Even when I taught preschool I would tell the students that it was the process that was important not the finished product. I remember a little, three year old boy who showed his mom a picture he had painted that day. He had asked her if he liked his picture of a choo choo train. Her comment was, "Oh I guess I can't see it but ok." The boy looked down and finished getting his things. It broke my heart! He had worked so hard on it. I wanted to scream at her and say, "Ask him to tell you more about it!" or "Can't you even pretend to see the train!"

Telling them that hard work pays off is something that we have installed in everything our children do. They know this about work, chores, school, etc. I have to examples of this to share. One is that our 14 year old is dyslexic. He has worked hard at everything. He went from not passing a single paper to being an A/B student who is in Advanced Math. Our kindergarten daughter started reading group with everyone else and by working as hard as she can be she is one of the best readers in the class.

The part that I learned from is that failure is a natural part of learning. I am my own worst critic and never have felt whole if I failed at something or completed something on time. I was recently working one on one in math with one of our resource room students, who is a sixth grader. Math is the hardest subject for him. He became teary eyed and I looked him in the eye and told him how even adults find somethings or a certain subject hard. I commented that there are times when even adults fail the first time they try something and have to pick themselves up and try again. I looked at him and said that he needed to pick up his pencil and just try the problem again and again until it was right. The next morning before school he found me and told me that he thought about that all night and was going to keep thinking about it every time he got stuck. When I read this part and thought about what I had said to him I thought I better start taking my own advice. It works!

Not taking study skills for granted is something I try to remind our middle school students of all the time. I see a lot of the students in the resource room as well as in my study hall who are unorganized and say I will study that later. I always try to find our resource room students at the end of the day and remind them if they have a test or quiz the next day. Our eighth grader has learned memorization skills from being dyslexic. He can hear material or read it (slow but sure) and remember it. I try to tell him that there may be a time that doesn't work. I try to show him study skills but he doesn't always like to take my advice.

I like the way he said that catching up is a long term goal. How true that is! The way he referred it to dieting caught my attention. Also, if we could enlist the help of parents, like the book said, it would truly be wonderful. I really liked the way he commented on being careful with praise when showing students that you have confidence in them. Showing them the good and bad of their work when you know that they can do better is truly a great point. I have done this at times without realizing it but would like to continue working on this point.