Friday, November 13, 2015

The Gift of Failure: A Reading List for You

I've just completed chapter 2 in The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey. Throughout this chapter she summarizes the argument against overparenting and I found myself creating a mental reading list as I read. Then I realized, as every middle schooler at Canterbury already knows, that this list would, of course appear in her bibliography!

Some of these are well known, others less well known, but all worth the read. However, I will provide a list here on her references in the second chapter that I think will help provide color and context to her argument. Enjoy:

  1. Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation by Edward Deci, 1995
  2. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck, 2006
  3. Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink, 2009
  4. Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter Brown, Henry Roediger III, and Mark McDaniel, 2014
Lahey also references studies by Elizabeth and Robert Bjork on "desirable difficulties" and Anne Sobel out of Northwester University in Qatar. 

PS I find it interesting that Deci's work was published 20 years ago and we are still struggling to manage our parental instincts and work towards developing our children's intrinsic motivation and autonomy....

Monday, November 9, 2015

BIG Question: What is the Power in a Name?

Each year in the middle school we embark on a series of BIG Questions around our community and what it means to be a part of it. Today we launched our first BIG Question to coincide with the national No Name Calling Week.

The question we posed to our middle schoolers was, "What is the Power in a Name?" This week and into next we will be undertaking a series of activities and reflection activities in our advisories that incorporate the expectations of kindness and inclusiveness we espouse at Canterbury. As part of this week we are encouraging students to wear crazy socks on Thursday, November 12. This is a small way to express our individuality and to see the individuality of others while continuing to think about our Big Question: What's the power in a name?

On Wednesday, November 18, Father Finnin will wrap up the BIG Question with a Middle School Chapel at 11:35 in Phillips Chapel.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Gift of Failure: First Impressions

Good morning,

I've just completed the Introduction and Chapter 1 of The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey and my first impressions of what is to come are favorable. First and foremost, the author is not a lecturing, "How-could-you?" voice of condemnation. To the contrary, she employs a reassuring, "I'm-with-you" voice as she offers her own parenting approach up for us to understand the journey to raising self-sufficient children.

Ms. Lahey does a particularly masterful job of outlining the history of parenting in America from colonization through the present day in a manageable and entertaining 14 page first chapter. As a father of three, four and under (and a daughter who is 4 going on 16...), I was particularly drawn to her John Locke quotations. Here is one of those gems:

"Locke advises, 'crying is very often a striving for mastery and an open declaration of their insolence or obstinacy: when they have not the power to obtain their desire, they will by their clamor and sobbing maintain their title and right to it' (emphasis Locke's, and I can almost hear the derision dripping from those horrid, emotional words)."

Lahey goes on to outline the progression from parenting as a matter of survival to the helicopter/interventionist approach of today: "Today, parenting is less oxytocin-soaked rosy glow, more adrenaline-fueled oncoming headlight glare."

I recommend it heartily and if the above quotation offers anything, it should be an indication of the sensibility and humor with which Ms. Lahey approaches her subject matter.

Please enjoy!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

All MS Faculty Read: The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey

I hope you are enjoying the fall weather and are excited for the upcoming fall festivities. One of the best things about fall in North Carolina is that you can actually be outside to experience it! Meanwhile, back in the classroom we are coming to the close of the first trimester, fall sports have ended, homework is becoming more routine and big projects and assessments are waiting in the wings. It is the natural rhythm of the school year, but nonetheless, it can cause anxiety for teachers, parents, and students alike.

In middle school most of what we do is help students to learn to manage these anxieties in a way that develops productive, self aware, and confident learners. While it may seem counterintuitive, it is often the failures during students’ middle school years that prepare them best for the rigors and higher stakes of high school and beyond.

This is the thesis of The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed by Jessica Lahey. The middle school faculty has just begun reading this book together in an effort to curate common understandings and language around our learning environment and how best to work with our students around the struggle of learning - especially as it relates to middle school. As the title of Chapter 8 connotes, middle school is a prime time for failure and the relief comes in accepting that fact and using it as an opportunity for growth in a relatively low-stakes setting.

I invite you to join us in our reading. Our goal is to complete the book by Jan. 4, 2016 and to shortly thereafter host a book club-style discussion among faculty and parents about how we can partner together to help support our children through these times of growth. Over the course of the next few months, I will be writing some reflections on the reading through my blog, Life in Grey and I welcome your comments.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.