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Onward, Pioneers! Chipping Away at 10,000 Hours

Onward, Pioneers! Chipping Away at 10,000 Hours
Corinna Crafton

Last Monday, teachers and administrators took part in workshops across a wide range of teaching and learning topics including: developing digital portfolios of student work, enhancing our culturally responsive and inclusive curriculum...

Onward, Pioneers! Chipping Away at 10,000 Hours

The day began with breakfast and table games, a light-hearted start to what would become an enriching day of sharing and learning from one another. Last Monday, teachers and administrators took part in workshops across a wide range of teaching and learning topics including: developing digital portfolios of student work, enhancing our culturally responsive and inclusive curriculum, differentiating instruction for all learners, designing alternative assessments, and promoting social and emotional health while advancing a rigorous program of studies. We are grateful to have this time to work together to further hone our skills as educators and to collaborate with one another across grades and disciplines.

Time, teachers will tell you, is the one resource they all wish they could reproduce at the copy machine or manufacture using our 3-D printer. With all that needs to be done, finding pockets of time to devote to developing the craft and art of teaching must be intentional. We are fortunate that Wardlaw+Hartridge prioritizes this time during our professional development days, allowing teachers to teach each other. Certainly, we could use more of these special opportunities. Each workshop offered last week was planned and delivered by one of our expert faculty members.

We ask our students to be pioneering thinkers each and every day. We must embody that mindset ourselves, and there is no better way to do so than to dive into learning more about the profession we love. When we get together as a faculty and talk about how to make the most of the moments we have with students and our hopes for them, we talk about latent talents and the ways we can scaffold instruction to bring out the best in each student. 

Many of you have likely read Malcolm Gladwell’s best-selling book Outliers, wherein he discusses what it takes to truly master a skill. He writes about the “10,000-Hour Rule” to which he devotes an entire chapter. This topic receives the most attention when folks discuss the book, and certainly it is attention-grabbing and powerful. However, there are a few other points Gladwell makes that are worthy of our consideration. 

For example, he writes of several fascinating young people who excelled far beyond their peers with no 10,000-hour effort. Henry Cowell, he explains, “had been raised in poverty and chaos. Because he did not get along with other children, he had been unschooled since the age of seven. He worked as a janitor at a one-room school-house not far from the Stanford campus, and throughout the day, Cowell would sneak away from his job and play the school piano. And the music he made was beautiful… “he had an IQ of above 140, which is near genius level” (73). So, what do we make of this dichotomy? Most of us must put in at least 10,000 hours to master an art, skill, or topic. A smaller number, such as Cowell, or the girl who “was reading Dickens and Shakespeare by the time she was four,” are born with a special proclivity for something. Perhaps one way to consider this disparity is that it is no disparity at all. Rather, there are many ways of being “smart,” of learning and knowing. Most take hard work. We know also, as Gladwell points out, “the relationship between success and IQ works only up to a point. Once someone has reached an IQ of somewhere around 120, having additional IQ points doesn’t seem to translate into any measurable real-world advantage” (79).

Indeed, Gladwell digs deeper to learn what becomes of the geniuses among us and finds that regardless of innate talent or aptitude, “extraordinary achievement is less about talent than it is about opportunity” (77). Providing an environment rich in opportunity is critical to our program at Wardlaw+Hartridge and we work continually to develop new and novel opportunities for students to stretch their minds and expand their hearts. Professional development opportunities for their teachers is requisite in achieving these desired outcomes. 

Lesser known perhaps is, Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined, written by Scott Barry Kaufman in 2013, seeks to dispel some of the many myths surrounding IQ testing and put forth a case, steeped in research, for a more holistic approach to understanding and nurturing intelligence. Engagement, mindset, curiosity, self-regulation, creativity, and deliberate practice feature prominently in the emerging research about what makes for successful outcomes for students across many measures and across various demographic groupings. Much of the work we undertake in advisory, with our focus on non-cognitive character traits, and within classes aims at building capacity in the areas Kaufman suggests are most impactful, “critical thinking, working memory, mental flexibility, deliberate practice, communication and social skills, public speaking skills, compassion, emotional self-regulation, learning strategies, growth mindset, and divergent thinking” (305). 

None of what teachers do each day is easy. All of what they do in support of students, however, is important and the work they put in at night and through weekends reflects their commitment to continually developing their professional practice.