The photo above isn't a great photo. I took it last month when I was lucky enough to be in NYC visiting with family. The weather was moody, shifting from sunny and warm to raining to cold. At one point, looking in three directions, we could see blue skies, but this was the view ahead of us, a rainbow. I probably should have taken another photo after this big car moved, but I didn't. I'm happy I got to see the rainbow, which I wouldn't have done had I been looking at my phone or at the car or in any other direction, all of which had blue skies, except this one. I'm lucky I looked towards the clouds.
In my teaching (and in my AP readings), I often spend time thinking about the difference between students who do well and those who struggle. I try to figure out what is the secret sauce that allows some people to know what's wanted and deliver it, while others can't see or produce what their teachers want from them.
I think it comes down to this: it's more important to pay attention than to be naturally gifted (whatever that ends up meaning). The students who observe carefully (with their eyes and ears and hearts) can emulate what's valued. Those paying attention to other things (their classmates, the window, their phones) end up missing the boat.
I’ve come to think that doing well at almost any endeavor isn’t about being smart or naturally gifted, it’s about paying attention continuously and knowing how to change tracks. Studying, in the most fundamental sense of working to understand and reproduce, works. But to get to the point at which we know what to study, we have to pay attention.
To what have you been paying attention? To what would you like to try to pay more attention? What's the best way to get better at paying attention? Please share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments.