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Posts: 42
Reply with quote  #16 
On page xv, Tough suggest over the past few decades "we have been focusing on the wrong skills and abilities in our children, and we have been using the wrong strategies to help nurture and teach those skills." 
What are your thoughts on this? Do you feel we have been focusing on the wrong skills?

In early cognitive development, I'd wonder what is the focus the parent has for child development?  And more importantly - is there one?  My aunt teaches Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten for a low-income school district and I've heard her say many times - 'if only these children were given the opportunity to watch Sesame Street at home." 

One of the best pieces of advice I received early on from my mother was to read 3 books at night with my children before they go to bed.  This really did help them learn to love reading - and I feel they are now advanced readers thanks to this.

I was appalled this year when my 4th grade son went through a parallel and perpendicular line unit.  I've taught Geometry for many years at the high school level and I was amazed at the rigor in vocabulary and high level of expectation to retain the material taught.  I couldn't help but think "this is one of the reasons kids hate math by the time they get to me..."

I do feel that our Texas Educational System is making a bad turn with all the standardized testing we have to teach to.  It is a shame that our graduates can spout off the Pythagorean Theorem but not know how to tip a waitress or balance a checkbook.

Jennifer Goedken

Posts: 98
Reply with quote  #17 
I think the schools are focusing on the wrong things.  Kids are expected to come to kindergarten knowing things that used to be taught IN kindergarten.  This just keeps continuing up through the different grade levels.  I did not send my children to preschool but they did have all the skills they needed to start school.  They were able to experience the world and learn while getting all the nurturing they needed.  I just don't believe putting young children into school too early is good for them.  It's definitely not the teachers fault...I think they are doing the best they can with all that they have to do and the directives they have to follow.  I would like to see the schools not be so stuck on test scores and just do what's best for the children.  

Posts: 38
Reply with quote  #18 
   I do not think that we have been focusing on the wrong skills in schools.  I think that other skills should be included in our focus, perhaps this means that our strategies need to be enhanced.  According to Heckman, a Nobel Prize winner, academics are just one part of an education.  The GED ( a tool instituted to level the academic playing field) did not prove significant in the outcome of student success.  The Perry School project (which began more than 30 years ago) also proved a significant difference in the positive outcome of student character, and their students' later life success rate.  With these two illustrations, I agree that we should focus more on instilling noncognitive skills in our children, and begin doing so at an early age.

Posts: 148
Reply with quote  #19 
I do believe that we have been focusing some of the wrong skills.  I recently went to a training at my school and was blown away.  Last year, we kept complaining that the curriculum was moving to fast for our first graders.  The higher ups kept telling us that we were pushing rigor and needed to adjust.  Needless to say some of our students struggled to keep up, and many parents were concerned about their childrens' success in schools.  At the meeting, we found out that some of the skills we were teaching were not for our grade level but for the next grade level up.  In other words, our first graders were expected to complete second grade skills.  I was so relieved when we found out those skills would not be taught by us this school year.  I think by focusing on just our grade level skills, we will in turn build confidence, character, etc.

Posts: 95
Reply with quote  #20 
This first chapter has given me so much to think about.  I can agree that the students in my high school regular physics class that have the qualities of persistence, self-control, curiosity, conscientiousness, grit and self-confidence always do well in my class.  The students that do not have these qualities struggle.  Very often, I see students that do not have any desire to do any schoolwork outside of school and they don't.  I almost feel that by the time students arrive  in my class as juniors and seniors, they are tired of "playing" school.  Sometimes, I think students have really stopped trying and they don't really have any motivation to do well because they don't care about their grades.  That then translates to them not caring about learning.  I also think the students are so attached to their cell phones and have found that is interfering terribly with their learning.  I can not assign homework anymore because one person does the homework and then they share it with everyone.   It has become almost a way of life for them.  The students that care and have the qualities above generally will do their homework but the vast majority do not.  I can only assess their learning if I see the work being done in front of me.  These days, if a question can be Googled or sent through a picture on a phone, it may not be worth doing in class. This is something I have been thinking a lot about.  My goal is to make my class more engaging for the student and at the same time make them more accountable for their own learning.  

Posts: 89
Reply with quote  #21 

I tend to agree with Tough’s statement that we have been focusing on the wrong skills and strategies to teach those skills: too much drill and kill with high stakes testing.  I think there is ample evidence/human examples that cognitive ability alone does not determine how successful you will become.  On page xix, Tough describes how economist James Heckman discusses how traits like persistence, ability to delay gratification and follow through on a plan are just as important.  I totally agree with this point.  In my classroom, I strove to teach skills like responsibility, patience and, of course, to never stop trying.  Today’s society of instant gratification makes teaching these traits that much more challenging.  The Pre-K and Head Start programs are wonderful ideas to help address the achievement gap between poverty and middle class, but the skills being taught or focused on the most need to change.  I read another book, Nurture Shock, a couple of years ago that also discussed the Tools of the Mind Program.  It was fascinating, and I used several of the techniques at home with my 4-year old twins with much success.  So many children are starting kindergarten armed with plenty of knowledge about letters, numbers, shapes, etc because of the numerous educational toys and cartoons they’ve been exposed to.  It’s the skills like impulse control, staying focused on a task, organizing thoughts, and controlling emotions that are so difficult to teach the older a child gets.  I believe starting early and focusing on these skills in Pre-K and kindergarten, vs reading, writing and math, will give children from any socioeconomic background a fighting chance to succeed in the public school environment.  A bumper sticker my sister has displayed on her car came to mind while reading this section and I thought it appropriate; “Teach your child how to think not what to think.”


Posts: 61
Reply with quote  #22 
I don't see that the use of standardized testing is properly assessing our students and preparing them for future success.  We should be focusing on employability skills.  On page 48, Tough identifies "executive function and the ability to handle stress and manage strong emotions" as necessary skills. Students who are good at taking standardized tests and good at memorization and retention will do well on the tests, may get the job, but will they be able to keep it if they don't have the behavior management skills to respond appropriately in a business environment?  Once a month, every academic and trade teacher chooses a "most improved" and a "most outstanding" student to receive an award at our assembly.  It is our attempt to focus on the employability skills that will be required to keep, enjoy, and be promoted in a vocation.

Posts: 27
Reply with quote  #23 

“Times and conditions change so rapidly that we must keep our aim constantly focused on the future.” – Walt Disney

I agree with the author when he states that “we have been focusing on the wrong skills and abilities in our children, and we have been using the wrong strategies to help nurture and teach those skills.” Classrooms are made up of such diverse groups of students that come from different socioeconomic backgrounds bearing different morals and standards. Often time’s school is the only time children are exposed to people of good judgement, morals, character, and standards. Nowadays educators are forced to teach to the state standardized tests and worry less about providing students with lifelong noncognitive skills and tools that they need in order to become productive, stable, morally conscience citizens of society. Instead of learning rote memorization educators should be able to model, emphasize, analyze and elaborate on characteristics people should have and why it is important in the world we live in. It should become part of the curriculum past first grade when social studies is about good citizenship in the classroom to high school when students are seeking peer acceptance, and fighting and bullying is prominent on campus. Teaching to the test do not create productive citizens of society and education should return to where it once was when I attended in the 80’s. 


Posts: 3
Reply with quote  #24 
I teach Kindergarten and I often feel that we focus on the wrong skills for these young learners.  There is always a wide gap between the abilities of my students.  Some come in knowing how to read and write and others are not ready.  I feel that we focus on "stuffing information" into their heads that they may not be mature enough to grasp.  Often, I feel that the most important things I teach them in Kindergarten is not how to read or to count, but how to function in the school and how to interact with their peers.  Tough lists character qualities such as persistence, self-control, curiosity and self-confidence as skills that matter most.  I tend to agree with this (at least for my Kindergarten students).    

Posts: 22
Reply with quote  #25 
"What matters most in a child's development, they say, is not how much information we can stuff into her brain in the first few years.  What matters, instead, is whether we are able to help her develop a very different set of qualities, a list that includes persistence, self-control, curiosity, conscientiousness, grit, and self-confidence."

Do I think we have been teaching the wrong skills?  I think our kids are missing one thing today and this one thing would help them to develop all the other qualities listed above - the opportunity to fail.  If I never fail, why would I need to be persistent?  Why would I need grit?  If my self-confidence comes from a false sense of continual success, is it true confidence?

I think, as parents and teachers, we need to step back sometimes and allow our kids to develop these positive qualities by letting them experience failure and then genuine success.

Chellie Nelson
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