Friday, November 7, 2014

Golden Street

I miss Connecticut.  

That sounds like something a pretentious New Yorker might say, but probably not for the same reasons that I utter them.  In fact, this fall I bought a houndstooth dress  because it reminds me of the time I've spent there.  

There are probably few people who associate fabric patterns with specific states, but the black and white will instantly take me back to Connecticut in July, which is a great thing, because new learning abounds in Connecticut in the Seventh Month.


 The Te@chthought Challenge for today:

Nov 7 What new learning has inspired you in your career?

The three conceptual rings represented above are the brainchild of Joe Renzulli, guru of gifted.  While studying at UCONN, I fell in love with the concept of positive psychology and happiness, both as it applies to me personally, and to the motivation and permission-giving nature of my changed teaching style with my students.    While the three ring model has been around for decades, Joe Renzulli and his team at UCONN continue to refine and explore and learn more about gifted minds and student engagement. 

The recent addition of the houndstooth embraces the work of positive psychologists including Martin Seligman from Penn, and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, by identifying all that is good in life, and then expanding on that goodness.   When you add the work of Carol Dweck's research on fixed vs. growth mindsets, it begins to make sense that motivating students to learn based upon student interest clearly fosters the greatest level of engagement and critical thinking.
Today I had just such an experience.

Two of my students are working on a National History Day project.  They intend to produce a documentary about the life of a local Holocaust survivor by the name of Severin Fayerman.  After reading his autobiography, researching the company he founded and developed with the assistance of his family, and watching interviews and examining other artifacts, these two young ladies (grade 8) wrote a lovely email requesting a sit down interview.
It was granted, immediately, and the students and I were invited to haul the video equipment up to the gentleman's home this afternoon.
We arrived at the appointed hour, and the girls flawlessly greeted this gentle man (and I use those words separately intentionally), as he welcomed into his beautiful living room.

I had been very impressed by the depth and complexity of the questions these kids had  designed after having done their research to date.  Mr. Fayerman was also impressed by their questions and knowledge.

I truly believe that the passion with which these students approach this project, and the design of the National History Day competition encouraging students to research and then present in an area of strength is why we parted at the doorstep after nearly two hours, smiling, with tears in the corners of our eyes -- a water representation of the human connection and empathy each felt for the other.  I could dance around the Operation Houndstooth graphic above and define individual examples for each of the domains, or you could watch their documentary sometime in March when it is finished.

Positive Psychology - something new, that really isn't all that new. Learning about it at UCONN, and digging deep as I apply it to my life, has certainly inspired my career as well.  In fact, this very blog this month is serving as an attitude of gratitude, which certainly celebrates the work of Seligman,  Csikszentmihalyi, Renzulli, Heydt, Shirk and Warburton.  And while you may not be familiar with the last two names just yet -- give them time. 

They're only in 8th grade, and busy on a documentary script.