Sunday, January 11, 2009

I've spent a lazy Sunday reading malcom gladwells new book, outliers. Like gladwells other books it presents fascinating arguments making it hard to put down. From the first chapter it had me thinking about our kids, how we teach, and what we praise. It's made me so proud to be at my school, where we've already embraced a lot of gladwells arguments. Our gifted program has trained us to look for the outliers out there and we're supported when we decide to push them. I felt like his chapters on the trouble with genius could have been taken from one of our staff meetings on twice exceptional kids and how we should look for and support our gifted students.

The next emotion its hit me with is a desperation to get back to work to work even harder for our kids. He brings up socio-economic status over and over again and discusses how much a role it plays in success. It's nothing we didn't already know, but gladwell shows stories side by side with studies of just how poverty, and growing up in generational poverty where expectations are different, impacts even those with the highest iq. He describes a man who could have the world in his hands,but since he had grown up in poverty he never learned lessons like how to advocate for his own needs. As a special ed teacher teaching students to advocate for their own needs is vital. But gladwell's story shows how essential it is to teach to all our students, especially in a community like my school's. Morning meetings and responsive classroom do a wonderful job giving us opportunities to teach these skills.
Gladwell points out another essential skill needed for fresh success is perseverance. Anyone could tell you that, of course, but sadly that is a skill many of our students do not have. It may be from socio-economic status- if you are focused on survival you are not always looking at delayed gratification.( I went to college with many very wealthy kids and found they did not always have this skill either, for very different reasons). Regardless of where the lack of preseverance comes from it is a skill we have to teach. (I hate to keep bragging about my school but they do a great job of teaching us how to teach this).
Then, gladwell touches on summer vacation and I wonder if it would be wrong to send copies of the book, or at least certain chapters, to members of the school board in regard to letting us keep our year round calendar.

My lazy afternoon turned into exhausting me with thoughts of poverty, education, truths, political debates, and the children I teach. I don't know if it's good for me to go back to work all worked up, or if I'm just going to make a passionate mess of things.

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