David Shenk in his book the “Genius in All of Us” includes six developmental practices.
Speak to Your Children
“Speak to children early and often,” (p. 39). To validate this practice, Shenk cited a study named, “The Carolina Abecedarian Project.”
“Children from low-income families received full-time, high-qulaity educational intervention from infancy through age 5 … Activities focused on social, emotional, and cognitive areas of development but gave particular emphasis to language,” (p. 1, The Carolina Abecedarian Project, home page).
The children in this group benefited greatly in follow-up studies conducted when they were ages 12, 15, and 21.
The leap in logic Shenk makes is that if a limited (i.e., time at day care), language-rich environment benefits children in this study, then a language-rich environment will benefit all children.
Read Early and Often
Shenk cites studies in 2003 and 2006 that found a “positive influence of early parent-to-child reading,” (p 39).
Nurture and Encourage
“[A study] found that, in the first four years after birth, the average child from [one set of parents] receives 560,000 more instances of encouraging feedback than discouraging feedback; [from another set of parents] a … child receives merely 100,000 encouragements than discouragements; and [with a third set of parents] a … child receives 125,000 more discouragements than encouragements.”
In reading this section, Shenk provides no further discussion than the information from the study. What I get from this section is not a message about parents, but a message about the messages parents give their children. An encouraging environment is just that: encouraging. Our children and students need appropriate encouragement.
Set High Expectations
Children rise to the level of expectations. Expect (and support) more, receive more.
“Setbacks must be seen as learning tools rather than signs of permanent built-in limitation,” (p. 40).
Encourage a Growth Mindset
“Many studies show that the more a person believes abilities can be developed, the greater the success that person will eventually enjoy,” (p. 40).
There are practices that parents and teachers can use to nurture children on the path to greatness. But the most-important first step is a belief that there are genetic differences, “but those differences aren’t straightjackets holding us in place; they are bungee cords waiting to be stretched and stretched,” (p. 39).
This four-part series is not an endorsement of David Shenk’s book “The Genius in All of Us.” It is a reminder that in a learning community there can be several sources of learning, including books.
More important, the blog “The Genius in All of Us” points to the wonder of our jobs as educators: we do have an important role in the lives of our students; we do have meaningful and significant work; we are blessed to be teachers.