Yesterday I dug out my macro lens and started playing with it again. It’s one of those things that I love, but I have to stop what I’m doing, take the cover off my phone, unscrew the macro lens from the wide angle, attach it and then lean in to photograph my subject. Using the macro means coming close, taking time to steady myself and my breathing, and holding still for the perfect shot. It’s easy to get the focus wrong and come away with a blurry shot.
And in spite of all of that, I love the vantage the macro lens offers. I get to see small things in new ways. Things that are easily overlooked suddenly come into focus, creating a stunning new way of understanding the subject.
A familiar TED talk also crossed my Twitter feed this morning. Angela Duckworth talking about her research about what makes students successful…was it intelligence or something she calls grit? She found in case after case, holding all other variables steady, that grit made the difference.
This 6 minute video is well worth your time. But it’s also important to think about not just students and how hard they work, but also how teachers view persistence and effort. A growth mindset, as described by Carol Dweck, means that errors are seen as part of the learning process. Mistakes are an opportunity for learning, not an indicator of lack of effort or lack of intelligence.
So back to the macro lens and the little things. With the help of the macro lens I can appreciate the beauty of things I hadn’t paid much attention to before, like this half blown dandelion in my yard.
And with a growth mindset I can also appreciate the little things about my students as I notice how they approach a math problem or understand a science concept or even where their struggles are with decoding. Instead of seeing what they can’t do, I pay attention to the beauty of what they do know and help them use their strengths as tools to make progress where things seem hard.
Like these tiny, ethereal dandelion seeds, learners can take the seeds of understanding from one subject and plant them in others. And as teachers paying close attention, we can help our students identify their strengths and repurpose them in other situations.
When I went outside this morning the cactus flower blossom in the pot near my front door was closed…looking droopy and like it might be ready to fall off. But since I was playing with my macro lens, I leaned in and got close…and captured this.
Without the lens, my eyes did not capture the beauty and colors that my camera could see (all of these photos are unedited originals). I noticed later in the day when the sun had reached the door that the blooms opened, yellow and vibrant.
I’m glad that I took some time with my macro lens today…and with Angela Duckworth’s TED talk. Tomorrow I return to my classroom after a week away for the Thanksgiving holiday. And I’ll be looking closely and leaning in to notice all that my students bring to the learning…even when it seems hard…to appreciate their strengths and re-view their mistakes. We’ll be developing our grit…together.