Practice: It’s Not Just For Athletes and Musicians

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Katie Yezzi, the principal of a public charter elementary school, has a great piece in the New York Times about the importance of practice in education:

“In other performance professions, like music or sports, the top performers always keep practicing—alone and together. It’s understood as crucial to staying at the top of their game.

[Although we don’t often apply it to professions in education,] I see it as one of the only things that will keep helping me grow as a professional and add value to my organization.

With our students, we never accept that some won’t ever ‘get it.’ We know that intelligence is not a fixed trait; with the right instruction, and lots of well-constructed practice, all of our students can achieve at high levels. [But] not all of our teachers initially apply this thinking to themselves.

One came into my office the other day, saying she knew that her class wasn’t going well and that she didn’t think she could ever help her students improve. I rejected that idea and noted two small changes she could make.

She still wasn’t buying it. Then we practiced, with me demonstrating alternative teaching methods and her trying them out. Her whole outlook changed. She felt the difference.

Five minutes later, she was performing in front of her students, doing what we had just practiced. I could hear the difference. I checked in with her later, and she was beaming.

She still had a long way to go, but she had already proved to herself that she could become better—and that the improvement was under her control.” (Read more here.)

Along with Doug Lemov and Erica Woolway, Yezzi is the co-author of the new book Practice Perfect. The book, like this essay, makes a persuasive case that professionals in every discipline need to treat their work the way top athletes and musicians do: as something to be practiced, honed and refined on a daily basis.

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