Making Learning Irresitable for Over 25 Years.
November 21, 2006
Season of Thanks

I want to wish all of our students and their families a wonderful celebration for the Thanksgiving holiday season. This is without doubt my favorite holiday. We often get too busy and forget that we are immensely blessed.

Take time to be with those you love! Return safely on Monday!

Posted by Dr. Tyson at 2:26 PM

November 3, 2006
Internet Explorer 7 Released

I have mentioned a couple of times on our website that MabryOnline is standards compliant. It should display properly in a browser that is also standards compliant. I have also mentioned that Internet Explorer 6, the browser used on most computers running the Windows operating system, is not standards compliant. Therefore, despite some of my meager efforts to write bug fixes for IE6, our website probably does not display as it was intended to be seen in IE6.

I am glad that Internet Explorer 7 has now been released. It does a significantly better job complying with the standards established by the web's governing body, the World Wide Web Consortium. If you use IE7, I would interested in knowing what issues you may still be experiencing with our site.

If you would like further information about browser features and compliance, I recommend this as an article of interest from the Economist Magazine.

Posted by Dr. Tyson at 10:15 AM | Comments (0)

September 5, 2006
2006 Parent Open House Meeting

Last week we held our annual Open House meetings. The weather just before the 6th grade meeting on Monday (during rush hour of all times), was terrible! I know many parents were not able to attend as we had power outages and traffic problems caused by non-functioning traffic lights. Our 7th and 8th grade meeting on Tuesday was packed.

I always enjoy our Parent Open House meetings as they provide me with an opportunity to meet many of you. We began our general session with a self-running Keynote presentation, Did You Know, about our resources at Mabry and the global challenge our students will face when they enter the job market. I presented about our focus and mission here at Mabry. And this year I took a bold step and did that presentation using one of our new interactive whiteboards. Parents used ACTIVote, a wireless, handheld assessment device, to provide us with some survey information for our future planning. I wanted you to see a live demonstration of how this technology can be used in your child's class to empower learning.

Even if you were not able to attend, don't worry, we prepared a total of three podcasts of the general meeting on Monday. The first podcast is a video podcast of the self-running Keynote presentation, Did You Know. The second podcast is an audio only podcast of my presentation to the parents. And the third podcast is a video podcast of the survey results from that presentation.

You may click on the images below to view, or, in the case of the audio-only podcast, listen to these podcasts. You will also find all three of these at Podcast Central for download. You can also find them at the iTunes Store, in the podcast section. Simply do a search at the iTunes Store for "Mabry". Once you find our collection of Mabry podcasts, you can subscribe to them by clicking the "Subscribe" button. After you subscribe, as we post new podcasts they will automatically download to your computer and sync to you iPod! And it's all free!

If the slide goes by too quickly for you to read it, simply press the "Pause" button.


Click the play button above to watch Did You Know?


Click the play button above to listen to my Open House presentation to 6th grade parents.


Click the play button above to see the parent survey results from both Open House meetings.

Posted by Dr. Tyson at 11:51 AM

September 1, 2006
CRCT Data from May, 2006, Posted

Today I posted the CRCT data from last year which can be viewed at this link. The Mabry scores are very strong. And because the state is in the process of changing the tests and renorming them, the results look considerably different from what we have seen in the past. And, speaking of the past, because many of the tests have been rewritten and renormed, we must be very careful about making comparisons between much of last year's data and any previous year's data. Let me take just a moment to explain.

As the state is changing the state curriculum from the QCC (Quality Core Curriculum) to the GPS (Georgia Performance Standards), the state has rewritten the state criterion referenced tests to measure student mastery of the new standards. Not only are the tests completely different, but they renormed the tests as well. For example, on the old QCC test, 300 was the minimum score needed to be considered on grade level. With the new GPS-based tests, 800 is the new minimum score to be considered on grade level.

To make matters even more complex, some tests have yet to be rewritten. Therefore different scoring standards apply depending on the grade level and the test. Hopefully, in the near future, the new GPS curriculum will be completely implemented and the new GPS-based tests with their new scoring criteria will be standardized on all tests in all subjects at all grade levels K - 8.

I've prepared a table at this link to help you understand which tests in what subjects at which grade levels use QCC versus GPS, and use the old or new scoring criteria. Hopefully this table makes the information a little less confusing.

We have to use care in comparing this data to previous years. These are completely different tests. They assess a completely different curriculum. The most notable difference in the newly renormed tests is that the scores are significantly lower. I want to assure you that this more closely associated with the changes in how success is being measured than the quality of the instructional program at Mabry. Your students are still receiving a level of instruction that is widely considered among the very best in the state of Georgia.

By every measure I've seen, Mabry remains at the very top of the state. When you look at our data, especially on the newly renormed tests, you can easily see that your children are scoring significantly higher than the county as a whole and remarkably higher than the state of Georgia.

I suspect that the thing that has really changed is how the bean counters are counting the beans. I have always been puzzled at the historical practice of renorming test data. Historically student IQ and achievement have steadily and consistently risen in our country on almost every measure. As children get smarter and learn more, their test results are renormed. (For example, for 100 to remain an average IQ, as IQ increases nationally, the higher scores must be renormed if 100 is to remain the mean score.)

An unfortunate consequence of renorming is that increases in learning are effectively removed from the data. (Steady and consistent increases of 1 - 2% every year become significant over 10 or 20 years.) The public can not see that IQ and achievement scores have consistently risen when the results are renormed. And while many of our schools are certainly in need of significant improvement, the hard work, success, and achievement our students and teachers have earned nationally over the past several decades has given way to frequent depictions of failure in the media.

This was recently reaffirmed by the 38th Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. The closer a person is to the public school (parent of a student in one), the higher the perception of the school's performance. When asked about the distant concept of the quality of American public schools, the lower the perception of school performance. In other words, the perception is that the school my child attends is doing a good job, but America's public schools are doing poorly overall.

I know that I have presented some complicated statistical "stuff." My main point is this: I remain very proud of the hard work of our Mabry students and teachers and the academic achievement of our students that results from that effort. Our goal remains to maximize student achievement in a culture of caring. Part of our responsibility as the adults in our children's lives is to balance challenging them to do their best work with celebrating their hard-earned successes. As we have never expected more of children than we do today in school, I invite you to join me in celebrating our children's success so we can further encourage even greater academic success in their immediate future.

Posted by Dr. Tyson at 9:22 PM

August 2, 2006
Beginning a New Year of Opportunity

I know everyone is excited about beginning a new school year, and I know that this excitement always comes with at least just a bit of anxiety. "Will we have a good year this?" "Will my child have a successful transition from elementary school?" "Will my child make good grades, have the right friends, and have great teachers?" These are just some of the unspoken worries that may be on your mind.

I want to assure you that at Mabry we have an excellent staff of caring teachers, counselors, and administrators that all want the very best for your child. Raising children today is certainly one of our most challenging, rewarding, and complex efforts. We all want so badly for our children to enjoy every opportunity and have every advantage.

One of our teachers just referred me to two articles printed this summer in the Atlanta Journal Constitution that are worth the quick read and some pondering. The first is Teens of Means, which introduces Madeline Levine's work, and the second is a Question and Answer session with Madeline Levine. Ms. Levine has recently published a book, The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids. I have not read the book, but here are a few quotations from the articles that are of interest. (For those who have read her book, I would be interested in getting your perceptions of it.)

From the Q&A, "Psychologist Madeline Levine says the things children need the most are not material: 'Happy kids are formed from strong family ties, from good discipline, from being part of a community, from an emphasis on conscience and good values.'" She says, "We emphasize the wrong things. We emphasize performance over effort, which is a huge mistake; we emphasize competition over reciprocity. It's parents, but it's also the larger culture that has said that it's more important to win than to cooperate; it's more important to be an individual than to be part of a community; and it's more important to have lots of stuff than to be connected to people."

A team of 8th grade students actually created an iMovie last year about this very issue: having lots of things but becoming disconnected from other people. They specifically talked about how their cell phones, ipods, video games, and instant messaging actually put distance between them and their family and friends. Their movie project is really excellent, moving, and will make you think. Move the playhead to the last two minutes of this movie link from last year's film festival. I encourage you to view it and see this issue from their perspective.

Additionally, last year I asked students in six different classes (two sixth, two seventh, and two eighth grade), "If I were to walk into the best school in the world, what would I see? What would be going on?" I was stunned at their answers. In fact, I found them so meaningful, we made a podcast of what they said. They talk a great deal about technology, but they also emphasized connectedness with their peers (in the physical classroom and all around the world) and with their teachers. Several mentioned a significantly reduced class size so they would get more individualized instruction and attention.

Becoming a teenager in our American culture today is a messy and difficult process under the best of circumstances. During this time of being an "in between ager" our students are trying to sort out who they are and what is important to them. They are working through balancing becoming an individual while at the same time fitting into a group. (I'm sorry if I am bringing back some tough memories of this time in the lives of our parents when you were this age!) But we all know the challenge that is this age. But we often don't realize the challenge of being this age today.

As your principal at Mabry, I will continue to stress with our students, their doing their best work--not making all "A"s. I tell our students that school is not about grades. Unlike No Child Left Behind, which emphasizes attaining low level basic standards, our emphasis, our school goal, is to maximize student achievement–for them to do their best work. I invite you to support us in our efforts to help your child achieve their best in school by reaffirming this goal at home each night. I am confident that we all share the same vision of excellence and will team together to encourage our children to perform at their best, to do just a little bit better today than we did yesterday, to work as hard as we can.

Our PTSA joins us each year in rewarding our students' best effort and hard work with special celebrations of our students' achievement. We want to celebrate their successes to build a sense of self esteem that is meaningful, is deeply rooted in personal satisfaction built from working hard to achieve demanding but attainable goals of significant value. Patting students on the back for trivial effort or insignificant accomplishment actually demeans their self esteem and is counterproductive to their development.

I will also continue to stress with them the need to make good choices in what they do and in the friendships they develop. I will stress to them the fact that we become like the people with whom we associate. I believe that our parents have done a good job raising students who know the difference between what is right and what is wrong. At Mabry we will support that hard work by stressing to every student the need for him or her to make choices that will open doors of opportunity for them in the future.

And I encourage all of our parents to get to know your grade level guidance counselor. Mrs. Jackson and Mrs. Haag are an excellent resource and are here to support your child (and you) as you face challenges. You can also visit their blog throughout the year for updates and important information.

SolstrandI spent a couple of weeks in Norway on vacation this summer. One morning at breakfast, with this dramatic view of a glacier and fjord in the distance (click to enlarge), I found a card with this quotation next to my plate, "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." –Annie Dillard

I was reminded that, despite the tumultuous world in which we live, these are precious times, that each day we live we must consciously celebrate and affirm those we love. Each day we create the meaningfulness that is our lives–or, we don't. It's a day-to-day affair. It's a conscious effort. We can become swallowed up in thoughtless routines and endless distractions, or we can consciously savor the time we have with those we cherish. We can worry about all of the things that could go wrong, or we can deliberately attend to each of the life experiences that brings rich reward into the lives of each person in our families. I want to encourage us all to make this a conscious, daily practice.

I am confident that as we all work together we will find tremendous success for our students. At the end of this school year we will look back and celebrate Mabry's 28th year of academic excellence. You see, I'm very fond of saying, and in fact actually believe that, "The future's so bright, ya gotta wear shades!"

Posted by Dr. Tyson at 3:50 AM | Comments (1)

May 15, 2006
Volunteer Brunch

Today Mabry celebrated all of the wonderful things our volunteers do for us at school. We hosted our annual volunteer brunch in the Media Center. We are always so busy that we sometimes neglect to take the time to say "Thank You!" We simply couldn't do all of the wonderful things that get done without the ongoing trust and support you afford our school. Last Friday I recorded a podcast with one of our parents who frequently volunteers here at Mabry. You may find her comments about community of interest.

Posted by Dr. Tyson at 3:07 PM

March 31, 2006
As Spring Gets in Full Swing

Parents,

As the weather warms up I want to solicit your support in making sure that your son or daughter is dressing within our school dress code.  We have many competing energy's for our students' attention, especially in the Spring, and our focus must remain on student academic achievement, especially as testing approaches.  The school dress code is designed to emphasize attire appropriate to the formality of our educational setting.  Anything that would distract anyone from learning is not appropriate.

You can review our dress code at this link.  Your support is appreciated.

Posted by Dr. Tyson at 7:18 AM | Comments (1)

March 15, 2006
Mabry Marque to Come Down for Work

The marque in front of our school will be repaired and refurbished thanks to the generosity of our PTSA. We anticipate that it will be removed around the week of my birthday (not-so-subtle hint), April 13th. The sign will be down for about a week.

Posted by Dr. Tyson at 8:34 AM

March 1, 2006
Amazing Student Art

We have some very talented young people at Mabry. Last week, when I was at Jekyll, one of our 7th graders told me she had drawn a picture of me that she wanted me to have. Today at school she and her friend brought me the picture. I am amazed at what a good job she has done! In talking with our Art teacher, Mrs. Evans, I have learned that Ashley has drawn other staff members with an amazing level of realism.

I wanted to share our students' talent with our readers. Click on this thumbnail to enlarge the picture. Great job, Ashley. Thanks!
Dr.-T

Posted by Dr. Tyson at 10:41 AM

February 6, 2006
Board Member Forum

A forum will be held with our board member, Johnny Johnson, on Monday, February 13, 2006, at Hightower Trail Middle School at 7:30 AM. School Superintendent Fred Sanderson will also be in attendance. A light breakfast will be served. If you are interested in attending, please RSVP to Donna Rumrill, 770-578-7225, or donna.rumrill@cobbk12.org.

Posted by Dr. Tyson at 11:44 AM

January 25, 2006
An Interactive Desk?

On January 10, 2006, we announced that MabryOnline was going interactive. We now have students posting to their teachers' blogs as scribes or note-takers. I can't tell you how excited these students have been to take on this unprecedented responsibility. They are doing an excellent job!

And we are slowly beginning the Mabry Global Learning Collaborative. In fact, Mrs. Abrams' Virtual Language Arts class started yesterday with about 15 participants. I know it's hard to believe students wanted homework that night, but each student was just that eager to get started posting their work online. They are off to an enthusiastic start. They are eager to see how people from around the world reflect on their work. Mrs. Abrams has already lined up adults, authors, and educators from all over the US to follow and respond to the students work. Extended family members around the world will also be able to begin participating in their student's school work. The Global Learning Collaborative has such unprecedented possibility!

So, naturally, I thought I could explore making "From the Desk of Dr. Tyson" interactive as well. From time to time I will post reflective information that I think can be a seed for deeper thinking, a way for our broader community of parents, educators and learners to share a collective wisdom that is greater than I or you, one of our readers, can create alone. So, from time to time, I will open a post to accept comments from you, our readers.

To be honest, I have no idea how well this will work. All posts come to me for approval before being published to our site. Naturally I welcome comments that are positive, empowering, insightful, and focused on the topic presented. With all of the divisiveness in our world today, I am eager to embrace some kindness and wisdom that will serve to enable us all to be just a little bit better than we were. I want us all to be able to influence the space around us (virtual, emotional, or real physical space) in positive and supportive ways.

How do you participate?
If the post is open for comments, you will see a link near my name. The link will read "Comments (#)" where "#" represents the number of comments at that time. If you wish to read the comments or add a comment, simply click on the link and follow the directions that appear. I reserve approval rights and will pass on or edit any comments that have any contact information, links, or information inconsistent with the focus I have described above.

We will explore this possibility to see if it can help us soar even higher.

Posted by Dr. Tyson at 6:38 PM

I Heard It on the Radio

An author was speaking with an interviewer on the radio this morning as I drove in to school. The quotation she made from her book made me stop and think--which is almost always a good thing. I invite you to stop and think about the quotation as well.

Perhaps you want to share your reflections as comments to this post. What does the quotation mean to you as a student, a child, an adult? You might give us some example, offer clarification, or in some other way shed more light on how this quotation could help us all be better parents, educators, students, and people in general.

The quotation:

"Caring and criticizing are bought with the same coins."

Posted by Dr. Tyson at 5:47 PM | Comments (10)

January 8, 2006
Two Really Big Announcements

I hope you have seen the news posted on MabryOnline.  Our internationally recognized web presence is adding interactivity.  You can read about these substantive changes  (the what) in the News section of the website.  I wanted to take a minute to discuss the why.

Our students are growing up in a world that is radically different from the world in which you and I grew up.  With pervasive computing and connectivity our jobs, our degrees, our potential for meaningful economic empowerment can be transfered to China or India via fiber optics in less than a heartbeat.  Globalization isn't coming, it's here now.  As I shared at the beginning of the year, a  few months ago I read a Stanford study stating that 15,000,000 high paying US jobs will be outsourced abroad over the next 10 years.  When you do the math, that's when our middle schoolers will be graduating from college and entering what will most assuredly be a global job market.

I want us to begin to address these issues now.  I want to turn these enormous fundamental changes into the seeds of opportunity for your children.  I want them today to begin learning that their peers around the world want what they have, and they want it badly.  I want our students to realize that the children of the world are hungry for the opportunity that presently is theirs.  (Within a year, MIT will be shipping $100 windup laptops that don't require a stable electrical source to children in the most remote regions of our world!)  I want our students to feel this energy that is nipping at their heels.  I want them to use this energy to maximize their academic performance today!  (Somehow it always comes back to our school goal!)

Additionally, I want our students to gain increased understanding of the world.  I want them to begin now to learn what global collaboration is.  I want them to learn to maximize online collaboration and research (exploration skills) to become ambitious, creative, problem solvers.  Critical thinking and problem solving can no longer be something of which we speak in the abstract.  We must actualize it today!

These are among my reasons for wanting to take the educational opportunities afforded your children to a higher level.  I hope you will encourage your child's participation in at least one opportunity in Mabry's new Global Learning Collaborative.  Work with them to select a school project in which they have personal interest to make it exemplary work worthy of publication to the world.  Don't do the work for them, but encourage them to work harder, to edit and revise and re-edit, to do their very best work.  By doing this, you as their parent are showing them your deep personal commitment to their academic success as well as your deep love for them as your child.

These new projects are just beginning.  They will grow in number and scope over time.  Frankly, I am unaware of any school anywhere that has such an undertaking.  If you know of any, I would greatly appreciate your letting me know about them.  I would be eager to talk with like-minded educators who believe that increasingly, the best educational experiences we provide children are those that forge collaborative relationships to create solutions to real-world problems, issues, and concerns.  As a nation, focusing our energy and resources on minimum standards just isn't going to cut it!

Posted by Dr. Tyson at 1:09 PM

December 15, 2005
My Best Wishes

In respect for everyone...
Wish-1
(Click to enlarge)

Posted by Dr. Tyson at 9:13 PM

December 7, 2005
A Few Things...

I rarely take the opportunity to share with our school community just how well-respected Mabry Middle School is around the nation. But I think that our community needs to know that our school is at the forefront of public schools. Our teachers and students all work very hard to model best practices that define what an excellent public school can be. I want everyone in our school community to take great pride in what our students and teachers are doing.

This week we are delighted to be hosting all of the middle school principals in Cobb County. They are eager to see all of the outstanding things we are doing at Mabry Middle School.

Next week I will be taking two of our students and a parent to be taped in an interview conducted by Cathy Cox, State Superintendent of Schools for Georgia. The State Department of Education wants to feature in a television program the amazing things our students are doing with technology here at Mabry. This will be a wonderful opportunity for our students!

Also, next week, we will be hosting guests from Oklahoma and from a variety of school districts around the state of Georgia. They will be visiting us to see firsthand what we are doing with technology. They want to replicate many of the experiences our students have in their own schools.

Mabry has been featured in several nationally-recognized education magazines in the last few months: Scholastic, Instructor, School Library Journal, and Education Week as well as in podcasts by respected educational technologist such as David Warlick. Mabry is also being frequently discussed by nationally acclaimed presenters from around the country in educational technology conferences and education conferences focused on best practices.

Our recent celebration dinner, hosted here at Mabry, is now posted to our website in Podcast Central. If you were unable to attend, take the time to download it now. You can watch the presentation or just listen to it, which ever you prefer.

I hope you join me in taking great pride in the work your students and their teachers do at Mabry.

Posted by Dr. Tyson at 3:00 PM

November 18, 2005
My Favorite Season

I shared with our guests at the celebration dinner this week that Thanksgiving is my favorite season of the year. We too often get so busy, so narrowly focused, so driven, that we miss the very things that actually matter the most to us. I want to encourage everyone to take just a moment this week, collect your conscious awareness of how blessed we are, celebrate the wonder of life, family, faith, hope, opportunity, and bounty. Breathe.

Have a safe holiday.

Posted by Dr. Tyson at 1:28 PM

November 17, 2005
Mabry Students And Teachers Are The Best

Dr. Seuss only had two things. I have three.

Thing #1
Our students continue to impress me. On Monday, "out of the blue," I went into 6 classes and asked this question of the students, "If you were to walk into the best school in the entire world, what would you see?" I offered no clues, no ideas, no sense of context to the question at all. I did request thoughtful answers. You must hear what our students said. Watch this video podcast at Podcast Central.

Thing #2
Will came to the front office this morning. He asked our secretary if he could make an appointment with me. I was free at the time, so we chatted. This is from our conversation:

"Hi, Will. What can I do for you?"
"Dr. Tyson, I want to be the first student at Mabry to learn how to post a podcast to the internet."
"Have you been working with one of the student podcast teams?"
"Yes. I've been working on the Spanish class podcasts, and I've made some at home. But I don't know how to post one on the web."
"So, do you want to learn the easiest way to do it, or do you want to learn the 'full meal deal' which is a lot harder but far more powerful?"
"I want to learn it all."

Our students are the best. They want to learn. They are becoming ambitious learners and problem solvers that are taking the personal initiative to create their own learning. Will is an impressive young man.

Thing #3
We are beginning to have groups of guests both locally and nationally come to visit our school. Educators around the world are following what we are doing at Mabry. They want to learn from our school, and we are eager to share. Our students and our teachers are the best!

Posted by Dr. Tyson at 12:15 PM

November 2, 2005
Make Your Dinner Reservations Today!

It's time for a huge celebration! Mabry has enormous things to celebrate:

Of course, Mabry is in its 27th year of excellence. However, we really didn't have a 25th Anniversary celebration because of the construction project. So now it's time to throw a huge party!

On November 15th we will host a reception and catered dinner in the new Mabry Cafeteria. Purchase your tickets from our bookkeeper, Ms.Osterfeld. Tickets for the evening are $10.00. Tickets will not be sold after November 10th. Guests from our corporate donors, the State Department of Education, and the local, state, and federal governments will be attending. This will be a wonderful celebration. This will be a "Sunday best" dress up event. Make your plans now to join us.

Posted by Dr. Tyson at 3:30 PM

Podcast Central

I hope you are frequently visiting Podcast Central on our website. (Of course you can subscribe to the RSS feed for Podcast Central and all of the new information will come directly to you.) We are developing a growing number of podcasts. Recent posts include video podcasts which you can watch on your computer and even download to the new video iPods! Recent posts include the following:

  • First Nine Weeks Student Art Work (VP)
  • Spanish Podcast Debut: The Alphabet
  • The National Junior Honor Society Induction Ceremony
  • 2005 Best Picture Category (VP)
  • Student Forum President Elections
  • 5th Annual Film Festival Theme Announced (VP)
  • Language Arts Research Papers
  • Kid Capacity: A Podcast Interview with Stephanie
  • Kid Capacity: A Podcast Interview with Stephen
  • Parent Open House Podcast
  • Parent Open House Podcast (EP)
  • The French Jump Rope Song
  • Dr. Tyson's Challenge to Students (EP)
  • What Is Podcasting?

Others are posted as well. The (VP) indicates a video podcast. The (EP) indicates an enhanced podcast.

Our podcasts are a huge hit all over the world. I receive emails about them regularly. The farthest email has been from an all girls school in Tasmania. Already today we have had 620 hits to Podcast Central. We have had a over 30,000 hits to Podcast Central in the last 3 months.

Posted by Dr. Tyson at 3:24 PM

September 20, 2005
Teaching Children Persistence

Everyone who has ever been around an adolescent child knows how stubborn and unyielding they can be. This is such typical adolescent behavior, and I think that adolescent stubbornness is also frequently accompanied by the following comment, "But that's not fair!" We have all heard it many times.

However, when an adolescent is confronted with a difficult challenge they find to be less than desirable, their unyielding persistence and stubbornness can quickly evaporate. Suddenly, motivating them to achieve the goal becomes an enormous, even monumental task. They can be among the first to give up. We have to be honest and admit that life can present some enormous challenges that simply can not be solved with ease.

One of the important attributes of intelligent, successful people is their persistence, especially when working to achieve a goal that proves to be illusive, difficult, demanding, and just plain hard. This habit, persistence, is essential to success. Successful people know how to work well with ambiguous problems. They are comfortable with trying to strategize solutions from various perspectives. They can sustain working on a problem over extended periods of time without giving up.

I am convinced that our coaches and performing arts teachers intrinsically understand how to instill persistence in our children. These amazing teachers and coaches have mastered the art of taking each individual team member, performer, and student to the very edge of his/her ability and then pushing him or her hard to go further than s/he has ever gone before without giving up.

They push them to work more. They push them to work harder. And they know exactly how far to push students before they reach the point of giving up. They are literally building the very nature of excellence piece by piece. Every time they work with students, they get more out of them. These amazing teachers know how to build persistence in children.

So how do they do it? What is their magic? I just sat down with our coaches and music teachers and asked. What follows are some of their suggestions on how to work with your child to help them habituate persistence.

"I let them know how learning happens, that it's not a steady climb. It's not linear. I let them know that learning is hard work. Sometimes learning is messy. Sometimes you get frustrated, but if you don't give up then the skill you are learning becomes your own, and no one can ever take it away from you. I tell them that they can give up now if they must, but maybe with just one more try it will be theirs forever!"

"What we do in class is just like sports. It's all about reps, physical motion. You have to increase the number of correct reps. It's the same thing with math I'm sure. Whether it's learning in school, in music, or whatever, I relate it to something they all can understand: sports."

"We don't have mistakes in my classes. Each so-called mistake is really an opportunity for learning. If you learn from your mistakes, if you study them and analyze them, you're never a loser. It's like the old saying, 'You miss 100% of the shots you never take.'"

"We have to set short attainable goals on the way to the super goal. We have to work them hard with those short goals, really hard. We then really celebrate their achievement of the goal. We keep them focused on achieving the goal, not on winning. And I'm talking about significant, meaningful goals. Then the praise is earned. It's noteworthy. They did something worth doing. So when we celebrate their success, they can feel good about it. This is what really builds self-esteem and confidence--not saying they did something great when they didn't or when it wasn't a worthy goal to begin with. They're not stupid. They know the difference. They have to see immediate worth in what they are doing."
"I think we also have to teach students to take the long view. It's not always about right now, or today, or even this month or year. We have to teach students to look at the long term benefits."
"Competition is not far removed from persistence. It's about being the best you can be, competing against yourself. You take the energy from failure and turn it into the energy of success"

"We highlight the fact that they work individually to do their personal best but are contributing to the group as a whole. By working together, they build something greater than they alone can build."

I appreciate the excellence these teachers bring to their students' achievement. We all need to emphasize that excellence is attained by pushing ourselves, by striving. The more worthy our goal, the more difficult it is to attain, the greater our sense of accomplishment when we achieve it. In other words, the experience of suffering is not wasted but serves to build character and achievement. By teaching our children to make a habit of persisting, even when it's hard, we help them be successful in all of their future challenges.

Posted by Dr. Tyson at 11:42 AM

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