How to Become a Genius in One (Easy?) Step

In his book Outliers Gladwell offers the route to becoming a genius. It is not something you have to be born into. It is not a culture, time, place, or socioeconomic status per se. It is something that anyone can develop, if it is important to that person.

So what is this single step that we (you and I, on our own, but perhaps together) can take to become a genius?

It is the willingness to keep working.

Gladwell was building on, among other things, the work of Dr. Alan Schoenfeld of Berkeley, who videotaped students talking through math problems. Schoenfeld found, and Gladwell discusses, that being good at math is a function of success and willingness to keep working (246).

Students who are willing to keep working, trying to figure out what it is that needs to be done, are more likely to succeed. That success makes them more likely to be willing to work on a problem even longer the next time.

Math geniuses, like my eldest son, are folks who are willing to sit and fiddle with a math question for twenty or thirty minutes, trying to figure out how it should work. I know that my eldest does this. I have seen him do it.

Confession time:
I have spent the last four years working very hard at teaching. I’ve taught 5/5/1, 6/6/2, the equivalent of 5/5/0 (developmental classes), and 4/4/1 (the 4s being new preps). I have worked on making my presentation better, my material stronger, and the relevance to my students high.

What I have not done is kept up with educational theories, learning theories, composition pedagogy, etc.

I have not been working on the problems, finding out how other people have said I might do it better. I haven’t even, most of the time, been working on seeing how my colleagues are doing what they do, to see if they can offer me ideas for doing it better.

Immediate response and longer-term study plan:
Recently I have come to feel this lack fiercely and I am attempting to remedy it by reading, taking notes, thinking about, anaylyzing, evaluating, synthesizing, and applying in areas that I think would benefit my teaching.

While right now it is still somewhat haphazard (I have books in a list of recommendations, for example.), I am willing to work at being a better teacher by reading not just the recommended lists, but the works cited in the recommended lists. I am going to graduate school–in my own home and office–for being a genius at teaching.

In addition, I am going to take my present attempts at improvement–including discussions with colleagues, careful reflection over classroom experience and follow-up tweaks, and haphazard blog reading–and develop them into habits and schedules that will help me become a better educator.

I want to be more than acceptable in this field I have chosen, thoughtfully and giddily, as my own. I want to be superior. But I have not been as careful about creating and working towards micro-goals to improve my teaching as I should have been.

Resolved: Dr. Davis will work at being an excellent, superb educator in her chosen field through the acquisition of new knowledge through theoretical readings, creation of micro-goals, implementation of new knowledge, and intense reflection and self-evaluation followed by new and improved approaches to/in the classroom experience.

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