If you’re like me, you value the conversation and authentic assessments as much as the work; in other words, you respect and trust the person as much as the process. Exploring talent in Dan Coyle’s Little Book of Talent means asking my students to “try on” or experiment a particular suggestion. It means there needs to be a shared and safe space for the students to navigate and negotiate the shedding of their skin. If I want to change their belief (about talent, about anything), I need to encourage/agitate/cajole them into changing their practice.
The book is set up for coaches, athletes, teachers, mentors, and students to examine a particular practice that intends on building success (myelin) around a particular habit. Today’s conversation veered from the typical. Typically, I ask the students to post their reflections on a particular tip to Collaborize, a platform for them to explore and share their reflections with each other. However, this time, I asked the students that we explore a particular tip simply by talking about the one we have chosen. The conversation stands out to me to be one of the best I have ever had with the students, to date.
If you’re like me, you look for moments where students may exercise their citizenship and display their maturation and learning in authentic ways. Sometimes a simple call-and-response circular conversation can do the trick. During the conversation, I pushed the idea that we are all accountable for listening to each other. Here was an opportunity for the soccer-scholars to close their laptops and see each eye-to-eye for their convictions and concerns, for their identity, and for their hopes.
Student #1 chose the tip that had him explore improving his talent by chunking his practice. In other words, the tip suggested that he practice focusing on a particular increment of a drill such as only working on his crosses from the left wing position. Student #1, throughout the process, would choose a particular portion of his game to try this tip, and then change it. Student #2 pushed back a little bit. He noticed that Student #1 did not seem confident in his choice. Student #3 did not agree with Student #2 and believed that it should be up to Student #1 to make his own decision. This was not the point Student #2 was making. I wanted to credit what Student #2 was saying while still being observant of Student #1’s reactions and feelings.
The conversation started to center around the idea of the tip, and I could begin to take a step back. Where I needed to step, I did. Here was an English class centered on accountable talk and accountable listening while also exploring what it means to build talent.
Could this situation be described as a flipped classroom? Could this scenario could be construed as a constructivist approach to learning material? I say “yes” to both. Putting the emphasis on the material, which was the writing in the Little Book of Talent, made the material almost hands-on. The students’ explorations and puzzles with the material was the data we were collecting.
My questions: Are the students aware of their data they made during this conversation? If so, can they explain how this particular lesson worked on them? Do the students have any essential take-aways from this 30-minute class? If so, can they explain and elaborate that take-away in a written format?
I’m always looking for ways for students to connect writing with speaking, conversations had with conversations in the future. I mentioned in the conversation that I think in order for them to truly change their belief about a particular subject, they must first change their practice and orientation towards it. This book is meant for them to “try on” a particular tip.
One student’s “aha” moment comes to mind when I reflect on this conversation. Student #3 spoke about the importance of considering context when experimenting with these tips. He noticed that some tips rendered individual exploration as in they were better explored solo while other tips could be practiced in a team setting. I asked him to elaborate and explain how did he come to know this. He is one of the students who has actually already read the book multiple times; that being said, he chose three tips as examples to show his point. He was making an excellent point, and I wanted to reiterate to the rest of the class that context was something important to consider as much as the content of these tips. It happened naturally without me having to teach this concept outright. I was proud.
In reflection, my soccer-scholars always amaze me.