Why This Blog? Why Now? Why This title?

I am no longer blogging under duress. This part remains true: I had a blog once and I lost the password...and then, I gave up. I really am not a giver-upper, but there is a point of diminishing returns to anything that takes energy, passion, and vision and yet, doesn't work out. So, off I go again, wish me luck! AND knock on wood I have had luck. And it is sort of fun.

P.S. Why this title? I read this phrase today 6/16, don't remember where. I liked it. I'm using it. I might change it. It may or may not have relationship to the content.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I want to talk about the idea of process. Mr. Johnston starts chapter 3 by talking about process rather than performance.

"We get the most mileage out of turning their attention to change rather than stability, and process more than performance, and by changing the way they think about error." Pg 26

This seemingly simple shift is a powerful one with insidious roots. I say this because at least generally speaking, we and how we are judged in schools, society, and most if not all aspects of life--even those business that are dedicated to creativity and innovation--care, ultimately about performance and/or product--that is what matters. I am not saying that performance/product should not be important as ultimate ends. I am saying that a focus on process is the way to creative and innovative performances and products. Those creative and innovative products, no matter how small they might seem, are the hallmarks of people steeped in dynamic-learning frames. The two are not mutually exclusive, it is just that a dynamic-frame is the kindest, most honoring-of-the-individual, most direct, and well-rounded-person-building way to get "there".

 Mr. Johnston's idea of casual process (pg 31--Problem Solving and Casual Process), also lives in kind of "non-mainstream" thinking around developing thinking individuals (raising kids) outside of classrooms. This reminds me so much of some of Alfie Kohn's writing--the idea of recognizing and naming what someone (the kid) did or is doing rather than a praise comment (good job, you're smart....) I think Mr. Johnston takes it a step further by writing about attaching the idea of cause and effect to the process--"You did this, so this happened". 

"Causal process comments are the most effective way of promoting the belief that the important information is how someone did (or could do) something, because that's what we can learn from."

It IS the learning through the process along the way that is what is important. That old and worn saying about journey not the destination being the most important IS true.

"Observing or experiencing success (or not) is only usefully instructive when we see how it was accomplished."

This reminds me of the reason we read, write, think, and unpack our teaching points in a very visible way. Clearly exposing what is going on in our "proficient"heads out loud and in front of kids. Whether as part of a mini lesson or in individual or small group sessions. There should be no mystery about how the performances/products (reading, writing, science, art, music,...) occur....expose the process to learn from the process. AND the process includes mistakes or non-successes--they are there to be learned from.

Finally, Mr. Johnston offers some very simple and very powerful ways to take the focus off the performance/product and put the focus where it belongs--on the process.

"The simplest way into process conversations is to ask how questions: 'How did you do that?' 'How did you know that?" pg 31

"Asking 'What are you thinking?' is a simple way to expand this process thread in classroom talk. These 'How did you...' and 'What are you thinking?' conversations invite agentive narrative, increase the available strategic information, reduce the likelihood of fixed-performance theories, and, at the same time, invite dynamic-leaning theories." pg 32

Even though "simple" is not always so simple...I am going to bite my tongue while my brain goes through my old ways of responding and then start talking when I can ask some "process" kinds of questions.

Thank you Mr. Johnston!

**my apologies to all that are paying attention to the punctuation rules around quotes...I am sure I have been inconsistant and have violated quite a few:)