Makes Me Think…
Photo by Life Inspired Photography
I recently finished the book Outliers by Malcom Gladwell. In this book he argues how opportunity and time on task result in success and that it’s not always the “best and the brightest”. He gives a wide variety of examples from birth dates to lucky breaks. Here are some of my thoughts in relation to students, staff and instructional leadership for the 21st century:
1. Gladwell suggests that if your birthday is within 3 months after any sports cut off date, you have a very high chance at getting to “the show” in that sport. He gave hockey as an example.
This makes me think about our students who have “late” birthdays. We often forget what a difference a few months can make developmentally. When we think about infants, a few weeks can be the difference between walking and not walking yet. We cannot forget this as they get older. Kids need to know that they might not be ready for some concepts and we cannot let them think that they will never “get it”. One size does not fit all.
2. Gladwell reveals that studies show how low-income kids start school academically similar to middle – high income kids. However, the academic gap increases by the time they are in grade 5 due to fewer opportunities during the summer months.
This makes me think how important it is to continue to support students all year. What can we do to increase awareness and support for these kids?
3. Gladwell discusses how 10,000 hours of practice is needed to master a skill. It does not depend on natural talent.
This makes me think: Are we giving our students enough time to practice skills. For example, we expect our students to be proficient readers but do we give them enough time to practice reading silently or to someone during the school day? Are we instructing 80% of the time and only giving students 20% of the time to practice when it should be 20% instruction and 80% practice? What about math? It takes time and practice to solve problems. Are we assuming the best students are the ones who can solve problems quickly? Are we giving others opportunities to solve even if they take longer or prefer different ways to show what they know ?
This also makes me think about the time we give our teachers to master new skills as well. As leaders, have we created built-in time for teachers to collaborate and master teaching in a 21st century environment?
4. Gladwell states that opportunities are a huge factor in success. Bill Gates would not be where he is today if he did not have the opportunity to have unlimited access to a time-sharing terminal to master computer programming when he was 13 years old.
This makes me think: Are we giving our students opportunities to learn how they want to learn and with the tools that they prefer? As leaders, have we given opportunities to our staff to master technology integration in the classroom? Have we created even the smallest opportunities to have procedures such as signing up for a whole school activity using a collaborative web tool instead of circulating a sign up paper at the staff meeting or having 25 copies of the sign up sheet going around via emails? As leaders, have we neglected opportunities that have been given to us to improve our 21st century skills or have we pushed them aside due to time, fear, beliefs, hoping it will go away,…etc.?
If success = opportunities and time, what opportunities can we continue to create for staff and students? Check out our school’s journey.