...I began to reflect on how smart even my weakest students sounded when they talked about things that genuinely interested them. These were conversations I found almost impossible to follow: discourses on basketball statistics, the lyrics to songs they really liked, and complicated plotlines about who was no longer speaking to whom and why. When I got to know my students better, I discovered that all of them had mastered any number of complicated ideas in their very complicated daily lives. Honestly, was getting x all by itself in an algebraic equation all that much harder.
In Angela Duckworth's book, Grit, she mentions this:
For years, several national surveys have asked: Which is more important to success - talent or effort? Americans are about twice as likely to single out effort. That same is true when you ask Americans about athletic ability. And when asked "I you were hiring a new employee, which of the following qualities would you think is most important?" Americans endorse "being hardworking" nearly five times as often as they endorse "intelligence."
Our own Principal Bozarth recognizes that the way we praise makes a different in this regard, as well. When we tell our children we are proud of their achievement, it yields a different response than when we praise them for their hard work. It makes sense, doesn't it? To receive similar praise, the smart kid will achieve high on simple tasks, but to get more intrinsic praise, the gritty kid will work even harder next time.
The point of this chapter in Duckworth's book might be that we say we value hard work over talent, but our actions reward in just the opposite manner. When a smart child sits in my room and answers my questions with the responses I am looking for, it makes me feel better as a teacher, but why? When that child entered my room, s/he already had skills; I had very little to do with his/her success. But when a child enters my room and shows growth due to giving it everything s/he has, I might more appropriately feel a modicum of personal success. As a teacher I should stop being so distracted by talent, and look more for the motivation and the potential of my students.