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The Answers

A column on education in Watkins Glen

The following was written by Travis Durfee, President of the Watkins Glen Faculty Association. It is the 13th in a continuing series of monthly columns.

Reading Suggestions from the WGFA

Teachers from the WGFA begin a couple of book studies in the coming weeks to sharpen our minds as educators. I share the book titles with you to consider a broader community read for the future.

First, teachers will begin a local book study of Mindset by Carol Dweck, a Stanford University psychologist. Dweck, who spent decades studying achievement and success, found a simple idea that makes a profound difference. Mindset matters, and it can be taught -- at home and at school -- by how we focus our feedback to our children.

Dweck contrasts two simple ideas: what she calls the fixed mindset and the growth mindset.

In a fixed mindset, people consider that their basic qualities, such as intelligence, aptitude or talent, are merely fixed traits, static aspects of their personality granted at birth. In a growth mindset, however, people believe that most basic abilities can be developed through dedication, grit and hard work. From a growth mindset perspective, aptitude -- brains and talent -- is merely the launchpad for future success. Such an outlook, coupled with reinforcement of resilience and the nurturance of natural, human curiosity, creates the love of learning and mental fortitude that are essential for great accomplishment. Dweck argues that nearly all great people have had these qualities.

Exploring a growth mindset as a school district is apropos. We recently revised our vision, mission and beliefs, which emphasize achievement and perseverance.

Also up for exploration in the coming months is a book study focused on social factors that lead to school preparedness for some.

WGFA educators have the opportunity to participate in a multi-community read as organized by the Children’s Reading Connection. The study will focus on the work of Dana Suskind, Thirty Million Words. The book explores the idea of the "thirty million word gap."

The idea is based on a research study by Betty Hart and Todd Risley, who followed children from all socioeconomic backgrounds between the ages of 0 and 3 years old. The researchers discovered that by the age of 3, children from low-socioeconomic backgrounds will have heard 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers. Furthermore, this word gap was then connected to differences in vocabulary, as well as gaps in IQ and standardized test scores by third grade.

The book explores the Thirty Million Word Initiative, focused on the scientifically confirmed power of words in building children’s brains. Teachers will explore programs and curriculum developed to help parents and educators.

Participation in this book study for WGFA members will be by video conference. Community members can find the book in the local library, as several copies are available through the interlibrary loan system.

Happy reading!

Travis Durfee
Watkins Glen Faculty Association

Photo in text: Travis Durfee.


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