The importance of judgment

Amy Coney Barrett recently delivered a speech in which she pronounces poignant as “POIG-nunt.” (Here’s the clip.)

Mispronouncing a word doesn’t make you “dumb” or “less than” or anything of the sort. But it does suggest that you are not routinely engaged in vigorous discussions with brainy sorts. And that strikes me as a real problem for someone whose job relies on good judgment and access to a wide variety of perspectives, and whose job performance directly affects the well-being of many.

It’s not a guarantee.  But it’s a strong indicator. It’s hard to imagine that someone living a life of the mind, routinely debating or discussing with others, would get to age 48 without noticing a habitual mispronunciation of an 11th-grade word. It points to educational quality and more. A sort of dog whistle that gets blown for you. The only tricky part is noticing it when it happens.

This leads me to question her “fine legal mind” PR. Elitist? Sure, I’ll cop to that. Reading too much into one tiny thing? Maybe, sure. But what worries me is that maybe this is an early warning, a “canary in a coal mine.”

For my money, Amy Coney Barrett pulled back the curtain on something very important about her background and experience in the time it took her to say that single word.

What do you think?

(See also Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow.)

Behind-the-scenes wisdom for parents

This summer, Julia Gooding of One Sky Education interviewed me in order to introduce me to her clients.

We had a much more powerful conversation than I expected! Find it here.

In particular, there’s a lot of valuable but hard-to-find advice here for parents who want to help but don’t want to helicopter, as well as parents of AMC competitors.

(It’s 26 minutes in all, so check the top comment to skip to the part that’s most interesting to you.)

Learning vs education

Today Seth Godin posted:

Education is the hustle for a credential. It exchanges compliance for certification. An institution can educate you.

Learning can’t be done to you. It is a choice and it requires active participation, not simple adherence to metrics.

Learning is the only place to find resilience, possibility and contribution, because learning is a lifelong skill that isn’t domain dependent.

Most of the learning moments in our lives are accidental or random. A situation presents itself and if we’re lucky, we learn something from it.

I agree that learning is where it’s at, which is why we’re introducing a few new offerings in the coming weeks. If you’re on our mailing list, you’ll see those shortly. (And if not, let me know, and I’ll be happy to add you.)

But I also think that if you can rack up an educational credential as part of the learning process, it’s worth going for it. And that’s why we also continue to help students prepare for standardized tests, math competitions, and classwork.

To sum up: It’s great if you join us because you want the STEM grades and the test scores. But once you’re here, it’s the learning that’ll really blow your doors off!

So… let’s get to it.

Interruption

During this period of sequestration, those of us lucky to have jobs and kids are facing more interruptions to our work than ever before, right when we most need to be able to concentrate.  This isn’t a new phenomenon, of course; for example, this breezy article on the topic dates from 2015.

What is new is the acuteness of the problem, and the unexpectedly strong emotions it can raise. A friend just offhandedly told me “I’m still trying to get to the bottom of why it makes me angry.” And I thought, Wait. I know this one.

If you’re in this boat, I’d like to suggest the possibility that it’s because the locus of control for your own thoughts belongs with you, as opposed to being a resource that is implicitly shared with everyone moving through your environment. In other words, you might be angry because other people are exerting control over your own thought process — in effect, over the proper function of your own mind and experience.  It’s a violation of something extremely personal.

Education in the time of COVID-19

We are all being called on to do more than we are used to.

  • Schools are suddenly closed, and they are scrambling to figure out distance learning.
  • Parents are figuring out how to juggle their own work and their kids’ education (to say nothing of their own self-care).
  • Some students are trying to keep up with the new work. Some are struggling to make meaning from the new assignments.  Almost no one yet knows how much they are learning.

For tutors, the job has always been understanding the student, and clearing away barriers to learning. It’s just that now, the barriers come in many more varieties besides just misunderstanding the material. Now students have more challenges:

  • Teachers struggling with new tools
  • Students’ need to manage their time more than they feel ready for
  • Students trouble owning their own learning in the face of reduced testing and other checkins

For all of us, the challenge is figuring things out fast, and changing things fast as we figure out what works.

That’s how tutors can step up, because: the fastest learning team is a motivated student and an expert.

Tutoring by video, done now and done right

COVID-19 is here, and we’re all figuring out the new normal.

For many students, one consequence looms large: schools are closing, and they’re preparing to stay closed for months. The schools and the students alike are making the shift to distance learning. And they’re doing it right now, whether they’re ready or not.

But there’s more to it than just scheduling a video chat, or training for a day or two on Google Classroom.

We’ve been teaching the majority of our students via face-to-face video for years now. And not just from across the country. In fact, some of our students live less than a mile from our office.  No kidding: the experience can be so seamless that even a five-minute walk seems wasteful.

It’s because we’ve practiced, year-round, for years. We’re happy to share our experience with you.

Here are some ideas for getting the most out of an educator who isn’t accustomed to working over video. They all come from years of trying everything, talking to everyone, and figuring it all out.  It’s our pleasure to share it with you.

If you have more questions, schedule a chat. (Yes, we really are happy to help. No fee, no obligation.)