This past Christmas, a staff member gave me an audio book of David Shenk’s, The Genius in All of Us. The book challenges our thinking about “nature vs nurture”. How many times have we heard, “He was born with talent” or “She is genetically predisposed to be a genius”? At times, in education, we mistakenly presume that children from lower socio-economic households will tend to be less academically capable than their counterparts from higher income households. This book delves into the childhoods of Beethoven, Ted Williams and Yo Yo Ma and explains that their “genius” was very much dependent on a desire to better themselves and lots and lots of hard work and practice. Their genetic patterning is no different than that of the students currently sitting in our classrooms.
How does Shenk’s research change what we do in education and ultimately why we do what we do? It begins, as always, with a belief that all students are capable of achievement if provided with the right set of circumstances within their learning environment. Shenk’s research no longer allows us to “blame” poor parenting or government-assisted housing for poor student achievement.
One of my favourite quotes from the book is, “children will develop only as the environment demands they develop”. Ultimately if we set high standards and effectively scaffold learning thenALLstudents will reach the bar. We do a disservice to our students by only providing them with easy, low level thinking activities. We need to engage our students in challenging, rich tasks that promote their thinking and inspire them to demonstrate their greatness ~ whether it’s in the arts, academics or athletics.
It’s our job in education to set high standards and more importantly to model high standards, not only for our students, but for ourselves.
As Shenk reflects, “With humility, with hope, and with extraordinary determination, greatness is something to which any kid—of any age—can aspire.”
Let’s give our students the targets, the tools and the toolkit and support their determination as they aspire to greatness!