Saturday, October 19, 2013

Notes from Paul Tough's Keynote Speech

Paul Tough: Author of How Children Succeed
Keynote Speech: Oct. 17th, 2013
Take Away Points: Adversity Gap & The Need for Adults to Model, "Bouncing Back"

The 2013 Minnesota School Teacher's conference featured Paul Tough as one of their keynote speakers. The speech was held in the Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul Minnesota. Mr. Tough did a great job as a keynote speaker. He reviewed some of the important research points in his book which were emphasized by personal stories. One area that Mr. Tough added to his speech since writing his book was a concept he calls the "adversity gap". 

In reading his book, parents and teachers alike couldn't help but surmise that one of the conclusions was that students/children need adversity in their lives to succeed. He joked that parents had been approaching him to ask what kind of adversity they could manufacture for their kids! He explained that there is no need to manufacture adversity, but rather allow our children to work their own problems more often. And he emphasized that low income students, or students that have suffered trauma, certainly DO NOT need MORE adversity in their lives. This distance between our privileged students versus our students living in extreme poverty or dangerous situations is what he calls the "adversity gap" and just like our achievement gap, it needs to be closed in order for student learning to be optimized. 
One thing that teachers and parents can do in order to help our youth develop more grit, and perseverance is to model it ourselves. Too often adults believe that they must appear perfect for students. Teachers fear making mistakes at the board, parents work towards seeming all-knowing for their children. Changing this thinking, and modeling "bouncing back" from mistakes or failure for our youth is one of the most simple and fundamental steps we can take to improve those skills for the next generation. 

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