The industrious child

The advice to go to school, work hard, get a good job seems to be often repeated, as if it is advice given to all young people as they are growing up. Funnily enough, I don’t remember receiving it when I was in school, though I may have been given it. With or without it, I think I was fairly industrious, for the final year anyway, studying six hours long into the evening each day after school. I devoted one hour to each of my six subjects. I needed to work hard to get the job of my dreams: all I wanted to be was a teacher.

I think I have probably always worked fairly hard, even when I wasn’t ‘working’. Maybe I should rephrase that, and say that I consistently put in a good effort, as long as low marks for exercise and housework are not put into the aggregate.  Effort doesn’t always produce the hoped-for results, and sometimes the results can be achieved without any apparent effort. I have not yet found that in relation to exercise or housework, though. I’ll let you know when I do.

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills is talking about being industrious. She says that

“Making a living as a writer is not exactly the career path any school counselor would promote, but any industrious writer can make it work.”

Tony Wagner - iterations

I hope she’s right. In the current iteration, of which there have been a few, of my teaching career, I am combining my passion for education with my love of writing.

Charli says that

“You have to find a niche … an outlet and fair payment.”

I’m working on those and I’m hoping that this time my effort will produce the desired result.

My niche: early childhood educational resources with a point of difference being interactivity in some

My outlet: a website readilearn, soon to be launched

Fair payment: while some resources will be available free of charge, others, including the interactive resources will be available only to subscribers

The relationship between effort and result is relevant when thinking about growth mindset and praise, both of which have previously been discussed on this blog, here and here for example.

fixed - growth mindset

Growth mindset is a way of thinking about learning proposed by Carol Dweck; of viewing learning as occurring on a continuum of possibilities that may not yet be, but have the potential to be, achieved. It differs from thinking about the ability to learn as being fixed or limited in various unalterable ways.

Much of the discussion about praise, see here, here, and here, referred to how the effect of praising for effort, “I can see you worked hard on this” differed from that of praising achievement ‘Great job!”. Personally, I’m hoping for a bit of both once my website launches. I’d like some praise for the product, but also recognition of the effort. I just have to hope others find it worthy. I definitely don’t want to receive any hollow praise, which I think is a major criticism of the comment “Good job!”.

ryanlerch_thinkingboy_outline

Needless to say my interest was piqued by a statement in the opening paragraph of the post Mindset, abundance by Mary Dooms on Curiouser and Curiouser this week:

“a colleague … and I continue to commiserate on the implementation of Carol Dweck’s growth mindset research.”

Dooms goes on to say that “nurturing a growth mindset is a daunting task” and explains that their fear “that growth mindset has been reduced to the grit mentality of telling the students to work harder” is shared by Dweck.

I followed the link provided to an article published in September 2015 in which Carol Dweck revisits the ‘Growth Mindset’. In this article Dweck says that one of the biggest misconceptions about a growth mindset is equating it with effort. She says there is more to achievement than just effort and reminds us that effort has a goal: learning, improvement or achievement. Effort is not made simply for effort’s sake and there is no point if it is not achieving something. She cautioned that we need to be aware of when effort is not productive and to provide students with a range of strategies to use when they get stuck.

She says

“Too often nowadays, praise is given to students who are putting forth effort, but not learning, in order to make them feel good in the moment: “Great effort! You tried your best!” It’s good that the students tried, but it’s not good that they’re not learning.”

She explains that

“The growth-mindset approach helps children feel good in the short and long terms, by helping them thrive on challenges and setbacks on their way to learning. When they’re stuck, teachers can appreciate their work so far, but add: ‘Let’s talk about what you’ve tried, and what you can try next.’”

She goes on to say that having a growth mindset is not a destination, it is a journey. We all have some thoughts and responses that are more akin to a growth mindset and some akin to a fixed mindset. It is important to recognise both and continue to grow in growth mindset thinking. I know I still have a lot of learning and growing to do, but with Dweck’s acknowledgment of the same, I know I am in good company.

Dooms also links to an article by Peter DeWitt published in Education Week Why a ‘Growth Mindset’ Won’t Work. DeWitt states that according to John Hattie, whose work I have previously mentioned here, a growth mindset has little effect on classroom results. Now that’s putting the cat among the pigeons.

However, DeWitt explains that the reason for the low effect is that most adults have fixed mindsets which they transfer to students. He says that, for the growth mindset to be more effective, we need to do things differently.

First of all, he says, ditch the fixed mentality. Don’t see the problem as being with the student, see it in how or what is being taught. Adjust the teaching. (I’ve also mentioned this before here.)

  • Test less for grades and more to inform teaching
  • Provide feedback that supports student learning
  • Avoid grouping students by ability
  • Ask questions that require deep thinking
  • Stop talking!

In fact, what he is saying is that we need to practice the growth mindset, not just preach it.

Teachers with a growth mindset appreciate the incremental

Which brings me back to being industrious, putting in the effort, and responding to Charli’s flash fiction challenge to “In 99 words (no more, no less) write an industrious story.

I’m thinking of putting in the effort as being industrious. I’m thinking of our impression of it and responses to it in others, particularly of the need to recognise where difficulties lie for students and how to praise to assist learning.

“Could do better”

The words blared from the page.

“Needs to try harder.”

Down through the years the judgement repeated.

“More effort required.”

No one tried to understand his unique way of seeing, his particular point of view.

“Doesn’t apply himself.”

He struggled to repeat their pointless words and perform their meaningless tasks.

“Needs to concentrate in class.”

Inside his head the images danced in brilliant choreography.

“He’ll never amount to anything.”

Outside their white noise words crackled a cacophony of dissonance.

Finally, school days done, they clamoured for the inspired works of the overnight success.

“Brilliant!” “Talented” “Exceptional!”

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

 

 

 

33 thoughts on “The industrious child

  1. Pingback: Which school? I found one! | Norah Colvin

  2. Sherri

    Hi Norah, at last getting a chance to catch up with you! I’m with you on the exercise and housework, ha! As always, you write an intelligent, excellently researched and thought-provoking post. I’m not surprised to read you worked hard to achieve your goals. And I think that’s the thing: you knew what you wanted to do and you took the steps to achieve it, knowing which subject you needed to study, work hard at and apply towards your goals. Hard work definitely pays off. I love your flash. Speaking of hard work, I am very excited to hear more about the launch of your website and I do hope that everything is going well during this busy time for you. Thinking of you Norah…2016 is starting in style for you my friend 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you so much Sherri, for your lovely, encouraging comment. I very much appreciate your kind words and support. I will do my best to live up to them.
      I hope things are going well for you as you move closer to the publication of your book also. I’m excited to hear more of your progress.
      Let’s hope 2016 is a good year for each of us seated around this international table. 🙂

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  3. macjam47

    Loved your response to Charli’s challenge.
    For the most part, I think people are some of each, but probably tend to lean one way more than the other. I tend to be more growth with a bit of fixed now and again. I would think as a teacher you would me the same.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your comment, Michelle. I’m pleased you enjoyed the flash. I think you are right about most of us having a combination of fixed and growth mindsets. I think a growth mindset is a constantly developing thing. Even Carol Dweck says she is still learning to apply it appropriately. It’s finding that appropriateness of response that is the challenge for all of us, teacher or not. Thank you for your contribution to the conversation. 🙂

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  4. Pingback: January 6: Flash Fiction Challenge « Carrot Ranch Communications

  5. Pingback: Industrious for 2016 « Carrot Ranch Communications

  6. Sacha Black

    Well, I think this might just be one of my favourite posts of yours… Ever.

    It’s a fascinating topic. Because I think it depends on how you define ‘work harder’ see my mum instilled in me that you can achieve whatever you want if you work hard enough. And to be quite frank – I’d argue to the death over that. She’s right, anything I’ve set my mind too, been 100% determined to achieve I have. I’m not special, I’m not gifted, I haven’t achieved everything I have because I have a ridiculous IQ none of those things. I genuinely attribute what I’ve done to hard work.

    BUT, and here’s the thing. It depends on what you mean by work hard. There’s that famous quote – that says the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

    And that’s my point – work hard yes – but you have to change, grow, learn – just like your growth mindset says. Personally I 100% sign up to that.

    I’m less bothered by the praise discussion, I think it’s less about finding a panacea when it comes to praise and learning how that individual child needs to receive praise. I was talking to Sarah B the other day about this – about how we get validation – by that I mean, praise, feeling good, knowing we have done a good job, gratification, thanks, whatever. And the way I see it, there are two types of people – those that get it internally – and those that get it externally.

    Externals need to hear well done or well done on trying hard etc etc but they need to hear it from someone else.

    Internals are defined only by their own standards – praising an internal is pointless as it bounces right off them. They care only for their own judgement. Ok – not always – I’m not trying to stick people in boxes – sometimes an internal likes to hear the odd well done. But my point is we have an innate preference. So arbitrarily applying a ‘well done on the effort’ isn’t going to work for all children – and I am certain you will agree on that as I am sure you have to differentiate in class. I was never really one for appreciating ‘well done on the effort you put in’ that to me (even as a child) was patronising and it made me feel like a failure. I know, weird, but that’s the way it is.

    Fascinating thought provoking post Norah

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for adding the richness of your thoughts to this conversation, Sacha. I think you have nailed in your comment: “it’s less about finding a panacea when it comes to praise and learning how that individual child needs to receive praise.” I repeat: “learning how that individual child needs to receive praise”. Pauline mentioned too that each child, each learner, is different and that we need to be flexible in our approach. Maybe to the end of your statement we could tack something like: “how they need to receive praise in that instance, relevant to that situation and that moment”.We do not always require the same type of feedback.
      I am not convinced that you can always get what you want by working hard though. I have worked hard and been foiled by things outside my control. Sometimes it’s necessary to say, “I’ve given it my best shot” but concede, that for whatever reason, the goal is unattainable. Knowing when that point has been reached is the difficult bit.
      Interesting thoughts about externals and internals too. I haven’t thought about it that way before, though I do know that I am (possibly) my harshest critic and sometimes it doesn’t matter what anyone else says I believe myself (unless I am the one thinking positive and they negative and then I’m probably swayed!)
      Thanks so much for sharing, and apologies for the tardiness of my response.

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  7. Charli Mills

    It does seem like a daunting system to overcome because we’ve been so good at teaching the fixed mindset, thus repeating it through subsequent generations. But the creatives and innovators are out there expressing growth mindset and it resonates with many. It’s a matter of how to incorporate it into existing systems. But I know that there were people in my life who taught me that growth mindset by example and I wanted to be like them. It can be a lonely place, though, as a child and an adult. Fixed mindsets do dominate our culture, at least here in the US. In fact, I think it’s often the root of social ills and political arguments — one fixed mindset against another. I’m so looking forward to the launch of your website and think you do a splendid job of writing to your niche even in fiction. Your flash teaches as well as expresses.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you so much for your encouraging comment, Charli. A wonderful example of a growth mindset. I think the way a “growth mindset” may have been interpreted when I was growing up was “You can do better!” There was no effort to show me how, and I never felt the need to do more. If I passed the test that was all that mattered. Except in English. I loved the opportunity for creativity in interpreting the writing of others, as well as in creating my own stories and sharing points of view. That I loved. But there too it was for the mark, the A+ as there was often little other feedback. It takes a lot of effort to change the habits of a lifetime.
      Thanks so much for your encouragement re my website. While there will be little in it for you (my blog may be added to it though) I know you will be there supporting me and wishing me the best. I do appreciate that. 🙂

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  8. katespencer17

    Every teacher and parent is a candle to a child. They produce a mirror that reflects the light from their candle. That is a compass for we should consider and emit the light that they want others to mirror and reflect. I agree with DeWitt’s wise words, “…we need to practice the growth mindset, not just preach it.” And I just loved your Flash! Good job and great effort on that one. 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you so much for your supportive comment, Kate, and apologies for taking so long to respond. I like your metaphor of a candle. It is true. Children do reflect what they see. We need to make sure our candles burn brightly with more of what we wish to create in the world. Part of that will come from practising what we preach, as long as what we preach is good.
      Thank you for your encouragement re my flash.I’m pleased it worked. 🙂

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  9. lucciagray

    Wonderful article and brilliant flash. It reminds me of Ken Robinson’s Ted talk on creativity. Yesterday I was chatting to a new young teacher at my school who’s very interested in psychology and mentioned that academic knowledge alone won’t lead to learning without creativity. Most schools/teachers don’t /can’t promote creativity because of large classes, lack of time, a dense syllabus, or lack of awareness or expertise, do we/they just do tests to check factual knowledge not learning. Sad but true. I’m sorry to be a stick in the mud again, especially as you’re so optimistic, but I can’t see things changing in the system where I work, at least. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and thoughts, which are always so inspiring💖 You make me believe it’s possible👏 Thank you😍

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for you thoughtful comment, Luccia, and apologies for taking so long to respond. Anything that reminds you of Ken Robinson must have something going for it! That TED talk is one of my favourites. It is so inspirational. And frustrating.
      I can’t help but be optimistic when I hear that a new young teacher at your school is questioning the testing and stating the need for creativity. We need more like that who support each other and work together to take apart the wall of tyranny that is destroying our teachers and children, and therefore our future, brick by brick. If it can be built, it can be torn down as well. Sometimes it is easier to tear down than to build. You just need a big team-effort demolition ball! (Or maybe even small sneaky ways can help to loosen the mortar.) And I mean that in the nicest possible way! 🙂
      Thank you for reading and for the kindness of your words.

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  10. Bec

    This was very interesting! The question of appropriate praise as you’ve discussed before is so complex. I also enjoyed the flash – it’s so easy to undervalue noncomformists, but as soon as they have a drop of success they are seen as wonderful. Lots of great links and resources here too!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your comment Bec. Appropriate praise – that’s the secret, but I don’t think it follows a particular formula. I think it needs to be spontaneous and relevant to the particular situation and learner.
      Ha! Love what you said about the nonconformists too! I wish there were more. 🙂

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  11. Sarah Brentyn

    This one is tough for me. (I always give you a hard time…) 🙂 With my two, I can’t use this. Or I don’t. With the one who gets 110% on everything, I’ve honestly run out of things to say so he often gets “great job!” or whatever. My other one struggles with some things so his effort means the world to me. Don’t care about the grade. A lot to think on here… Absolutely love the flash!

    Liked by 4 people

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you so much for your comment and for giving me a hard time, Sarah. I don’t think of it as a hard time, though. I think of it as a fun time. I love having my thinking challenged and extended. I apologise for taking so long to get back to you. My computer and I have been separated for a few days. 🙂
      How appropriate it is to give different feedback to different children in different situations. I think that’s what a growth mindset is really about. It is about giving the feedback that encourages, rather than stymies, further growth.
      I’m pleased you enjoyed the flash. Your comment encourages me to keep trying and improve. Just the right words at the right time! 🙂

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  12. thecontentedcrafter

    Well, really Norah, your little flash fiction piece said it all! I do love it when the whole shooting shebang is encapsulated in just a few words! Great writing!

    I loathe [consider that word capitalised!] all those trendy teaching ideas that go off half cocked and end up becoming a recipe for lazy teachers and administrators wherein the individuality and learning mode of each child is yet again unseen and unrecognised. Teachers need to be SO flexible in their ability to see their world, their work, their class as a whole and their individual students – it is never a one step process and different expectations and challenges can be laid down for different abilities. Almost every child will shine somewhere within the curriculum and many struggle somewhere else. After all, we all have our different talents and abilities. Schools are structured to meet the needs of a certain academic ability and those who fall above or below that parameter are, in my opinion, so often mis-educated. [I just invented that word I think 🙂 ]

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you so much for your rich comment, Pauline, and apologies for taking so long to respond. I’ve been away from my computer for a few days.
      I really appreciate your comment re my flash. Sometimes I fear I try to tell too much and obscure the meaning in doing so.
      I agree so much with your comment about teachers following trends without any real knowledge or understanding and doing as much harm with the new ways as with the old. I think teachers need a firm understanding of how children learn. As you say, they need to be flexible in their approach/es so that they can meet the learning needs of their students. Some teachers think it is all about their teaching. But I believe it is all about the learner’s learning. So it is definitely not a one-step process and the opportunities must align with a learner’s needs. I agree with you about mis-education. It is a great injustice. I’m pleased that you just invented the word, though others have also invented it, as a Google search will show. However I have no more right to rob you of the pride in your invention as I do of robbing children of the opportunity to create their own inventions and ways of making meaning.
      I love that you said “almost every child will shine somewhere”. I totally agree. We just have to make sure they get the opportunity. Your statement reminded me of a book I bought years ago called, “Each One Must Shine … The Educational Legacy of V.A. Sukhomlinsky”. I loved the title and always enjoy reading education. Unfortunately, when I received the book, the book inside the cover wasn’t what I was expecting. It was “A Compendium of Eastern Elements in Byron’s Oriental Tales” right up to page 22 (including the table of contents) when, on page 23 it became the last page of chapter one of “Each One Must Shine”. I felt so sold-out that I didn’t attempt to read any of it. Now, with your reminder, maybe I should have a look and see what I can glean. At least from Chapter 9 which is entitled “Sukhomlinsky’s Relevance to the West”. I wonder if you have heard of him.
      Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. I love discussing education. 🙂

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  13. Caroline

    Always good to see these ideas about mindsets or attitudes being explored. In the UK teachers find it hard in the context of measurements of success through grading. And it IS hard to focus on effort rather than outcome and to keep the learning in mind.
    Keep on writing in your niche Norah.
    Caroline

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    1. Norah Post author

      I agree. In the current climate of assessment mania it is difficult to focus on effort rather than outcome. Not that there’s anything wrong with looking at outcomes, only with using unreachable standardised measures as a yardstick.
      Thanks for your encouragement, Caroline. I very much appreciate it.

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  14. Lisa Reiter

    This is a rich post Norah and a great piece of flash nicely illustrating what does indeed happen to some individuals who survive the negative impact of narrow measures of success – particularly those with any sort of learning difficulty that means school work doesn’t allow them to focus on their talents. (Thinking of course of my son’s mild dyslexia and the disproportionate impact it had when he was younger, within the wrong frameworks.)
    I’m looking forward to your new website and appreciating it in the context of what it means to you, how much thought and effort I know will have gone into it and of course, its sensory impact.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Norah Post author

      Hi Lisa. Thanks for stopping by. Happy New Year! I’m pleased you enjoyed the post and flash, though disappointed you saw some resemblance in it to your son’s situation. But hopefully he has survived and blossomed as did the young man in my flash. Thank you so much for your words of encouragement re my website. I hope I will be able to connect with others who may find it useful. 🙂
      Best wishes for 2016. It’s great to see you back.

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  15. Annecdotist

    You nailed it, Norah, in your post and your flash. Effort where we already have the basic knowledge, can be of great benefit, but the effort without understanding is wasted energy – or so I tell myself when I summon my husband to find a solution to the various practical tasks that are beyond me!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks, Anne. You make me smile. Yes, definitely, we not only need to know when to ask, but who to ask, and what to ask. Sometimes the how is important too, or they just won’t bother to help! 🙂

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  16. rosemariethrupp

    Hi Norah,
    Oh yes, to this post. DeWitt’s five points ring so true and have been the main aspect of many pedagogical frameworks throughout my career. At this, the end of my teaching career, I have to wonder why the message has still not been heard. For how many years have we known that “Good boy” and “Good girl” are wasted words that provide nothing on which children can build. Okay Okay I am good but how and what should I do with this being good. Where should I go now? How often the bright kids linger at being “good” rather than extending themselves and building out into new horizons. But…as long as the worksheet is completed and it is all correct, good is enough. Sadly, good enough is not good enough for the future well-being of our planet.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Hi Rosie. Happy New Year! Thank you for popping by and commenting. Yes, it is amazing, sad, deplorable, that the main aspects of your pedagogical framework still need to reiterated to everyone. Why does it take so long? I’ve a few answers to that, as do you. As you say, good enough is not good enough for the well-being of our planet. We need to do better, and the one way we’ll know how is by somebody leading the way. 🙂

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