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The A-berg Illusion: Project 180, Day 6

The project continues. The work goes on. The journey resumes. Turns out my fear was more imagined than real yesterday, and the storm steered north of 211, never really materializing, passing quietly by, clearing my sky of mindful worry. And while never enough parents attend open house, those who did seemed open to my madness, generally accepting my ten-minute, whirlwind sale of Project 180. Of course, ten minutes was not enough, but for all that was left unsaid, I offered a final guarantee, intimating that no matter the struggles along the way this year, I would see their kids safely to the other side, a solemn vow to protect the charges in my care. And with that, a handshake, and a smile, I sent parents off to their child’s next class, hoping they found confidence in my words and comfort in my person. Hoping.

And so, with that test behind me, the work does go on. Yesterday in 211 we continued our exploration of the growth mindset realm. I presented the iceberg illusion to my kids in an attempt to get them to think about success differently, to see beyond the shine above the surface, to consider the depth beneath, to discover the unseen in their and others’ successes, and for that, the iceberg metaphor works perfectly. We also talked about how success without persistence, failure, sacrifice, disappointment, good habits, hard work, and dedication is really not success.

This morning, as I was preparing to write this, I had an aha moment. I thought that their gifted A’s, their shiny symbols are much like the iceberg of success, the iceberg of illusion. ¬†They appear to be success on the surface, for in the education realm they are widely accepted as the mark of success, but we all know that not all A’s–like all successes–are equally earned. Some are cheap imitations, easily won. Others are grand achievements, hard won. When I gave the kids their A’s, I told them that they had to live into it, that they had to discover and give it meaning. And now I feel I have found the elements necessary to help them write the stories of their A’s: persistence, failure, sacrifice, disappointment, good habits, hard work, and dedication. Indeed, for as was mentioned earlier, success is not success without; so, too, an A is not an A without. To remind them of the depth that success requires, I taped the iceberg graphic to the top of each desk. A daily reminder of the struggle that is success.

I also taped the egg with the words, “So much depends on the word ‘yet,'” to the top of their desks. If there is one word that captures the essence of a growth mindset it is “yet.” And so, we began adopting the vocabulary, developing the language of our learning community yesterday, agreeing to the following.

I can

I can’t

I can’t yet.

Taking it further, we also discussed that in learning, though the ultimate outcome is “I can,” “I can’t yet” should occupy the bulk of our conversations as we make our ways to the A, through the necessary land of growth mindset, an area that we will continue to explore today. Yes, six days in, we are still working with growth mindset. No, we haven’t read any stories yet. No we haven’t written any essays yet. They will be there when we get there. I just want to make sure that when we do, that the kids do so with success on their minds–real success, full of disappointment and hard work and all the other necessary ingredients.

Before I go, I wanted to share and celebrate a small success from 211 with you. Those skeptical of the gifted A raised as one of their objections that if I gave kids A’s they wouldn’t do the work. Well, yesterday I collected the first practice, and roughly 90% of my kids completed the work. They didn’t have to. They chose to. Makes me wonder about the power of autonomy and its role in motivation. I am not suggesting that 90% will happen every time, all the time, but I am suggesting that choice has power, choice gives power. I will continue to give my kids choice. I will continue to give them power.

Happy Thursday, all. Clear and sunny today with a chance of learning. No storms in the forecast. A traveler’s delight.

One Reply to “The A-berg Illusion: Project 180, Day 6”

  • I am so glad that the skies are clear today, and that the learning for your students continues. I liked your statement that ” choice has power, choice gives power”. this is important to know. The students in your class are starting the process of owning the “A”‘s they were given. Now on with the “I can “, Not the” I can’t yet” . I never would accept the I can’t, I still ask people what do you mean you can’t do it, of course you can ,if you just set your mind to it.

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