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Coral Academy Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS, NV – Coral Academy of Science, Las Vegas is a k-12 public charter school with a focus on STEM education.  Alex Carlone, an 8th and 10th grade English teacher, began the school year with an exploration of The Art of Learning in a prerequisite unit focused on the craft of learning, metacognition, inquiry, and mental schema.
“My goal for employing TAOL ideas in the classroom is to level the playing field for students who have not developed sound learning strategies organically through positive family culture or early formative experiences. I find that there is a considerable gap between our “regular” and “honors” students, a gap I can only explain through the idea of “non-cognitive competencies” and differences in emotional intelligence. In my mind, Waitzkin’s ideas pair well with the initiatives led by the likes of Paul Tough and Alain de Botton, which help students develop performance psychology and humanistic intelligence.”

Carlone’s 10th grade students began the unit by reading The Art of Learning and participating in discussions at the end of each chapter.  They explored concepts such as the Soft Zone, the Downward Spiral, and entity versus incremental learning theories.  Their initial discussions helped Carlone deepen his own understanding of the students’ strengths and needs as well as their personal approaches to learning. He is developing a follow up unit devoted to the motivation and strategy behind personal transformation, in which he will connect The Art of Learning to Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist and tie in ideas related to positive psychology.

Deenway Montessori and Unicity College

READING, UK – School founder and Headmaster, Munawar Karim, started Deenway Montessori School and Unicity College in 2009 to provide an educational environment that encouraged children to express themselves and contribute positively to the world. The Junior school, serving children ages 3 to 12, follows the Montessori method, while the Senior school, currently serving children ages 13 to 16, follows the Liberal Arts educational model – both working within the tenets of Islam. The schools currently serve 100 students, both Muslim and non-Muslim, and are run as a non-profit so as to be accessible to a broader range of families.
In the 2016-2017 school year, Deenway Montessori School and Unicity College began school-wide Thematic Programs with The Art of Learning Project. Over the summer recess staff were give copies of The Art of Learning and invited to begin their own personal reading of the book. In the spring, they plan to begin each morning reading and discussing a few passages from the book and thinking about how the ideas can be applied to their school community.
The Senior school students have begun an Art of Learning book study and discussion group, which will continue throughout the next two terms. Their teachers also plan to incorporate a selection of the learning principles into the school-wide Shakespeare study. At the same time, Mr. Karim is forming a parent book study group in order to educate the parents as to how they can support their children’s learning development at home. In addition, the Junior school staff will begin to weave the Resilience learning principles into their spring units of study in order to provide the students with repeated exposure to the concepts across disciplines.
When asked about his interest in The Art of Learning Project, Mr. Karim explained, “At our school we wish to prepare our young people for the world which they will be inheriting and that preparation entails much more than simply pushing students toward academic study and excellence in sports. It entails having a mindset, tools and attributes that can enable them to have the highest aspirations and know how to work toward them in whatever field, discipline or pursuit they are inclined to; and to be able to cope with the challenges that life gives us. What makes The Art of Learning special is that it not only agrees with some of the best research out there on self-improvement and learning, it is actually based on the real-life experiences of someone who continues to live by those principles and concepts.“ Regarding the school’s experience with working with the JW Foundation, Mr. Karim said, “The JW Foundation provides clear and structured resources together with one-to-one mentoring to help schools translate these ideas into life-transforming habits for staff, students and parents alike. The help they have given us so far is already beginning to make a difference in some quite unexpected ways…”

As participants in our semester long Thematic Program project, the faculty in both schools receive regular support from the JWF team over the course of their program. This support includes

· Monthly emails that lay out a plan for each phase of the program such as staff exploration of concepts, building personal daily habits, analyzing student needs, planning curricular tie-ins, working with students, and reflections on the program

· Scaffolded support of each participating staff member’s daily journaling on slack to analyze daily practice, note struggles, and plan for improvements.

If your school would like to participate in one of our Thematic Programs, please fill out this brief application.

University of California, Berkeley

BERKELEY, CA – Owen Monroy, Assistant Coach to the Cal Women’s Beach Volleyball team, contacted The Art of Learning Project after several years of experimenting with, adapting, and applying the learning concepts in his coaching. “The Art of Learning closely resonated with my instincts as a learner, and Josh’s experience and credibility increased my courage to re-imagine much of my coaching process,” Monroy says. After years coaching at the collegiate level (University of Illinois, Penn State, Saint Mary’s College of CA, Westminster College), Monroy returned to California with the hope of developing a better framework for skill acquisition and performance focused on beach volleyball, the fastest growing sport in the NCAA.
At Cal Berkeley, Monroy is engaging the team in a series of presentations and discussions, laying the groundwork for a culture and methodology which aims at feel-based learning, a mechanism for what they refer to as “dynamic response.” It is an incremental learning process, which pulls from concepts such as Form to Leave Form and The Soft Zone. “We try to limit rigid ideas around performance. Form, or technically explicit cues are not the norm here. We are focused on preparing well and allowing the body to shape movements in response to situational demands. The thing is,” Monroy points out, “encouraging athletes to color outside the lines of technique is counter-intuitive and often feels risky, yet our athletes are adapting to this approach incredibly well. Our ability to stay loose and produce dynamic results in chaos is taking off.”
With the support of the JWF, Monroy is developing a community of coaches, educators, and learners to discuss The Art of Learning principles and their role in athletics and education. If you are interested in joining the conversation, contact Coach Monroy.

Na Keiki O Halele’a

KAUAI, HI – C.E.O and Martial Arts Director Bear Bubnis contacted The Art of Learning Project with an interest in developing a Thematic Program that would weave The Art of Learning principles into all aspects of this free surfing, martial arts, visual arts, and gardening focused afterschool center. Currently serving 50 local children between the ages of 6 and 14, Bubnis and his staff of unpaid volunteer instructors are dedicated to providing learning experiences that will have a positive and lasting impact on their students’ lives. “We hope to gain a better understanding of how to connect with our students and how to help them fall in love with the learning process,” Bubnis explained.
Each of the afterschool teachers spent several months reading The Art of Learning, listening to Josh’s interviews with Tim Ferriss, and exploring their personal relationships to the learning concepts before bringing them to their students. At the same time, they carefully observed their students and began to discuss the strengths and struggles they saw in their approaches to learning. After identifying common themes such as creativity, humor, collaboration, lack of focus, low self-confidence, and limited perseverance, the teaching team decided to focus their program on the Resilience principles.
Within the first few months of their program, each instructor has seen noticeable growth in both their students’ approach to learning and their own teaching practice. “We have been using the Resilience principles and seen a drastic increase in the children’s interest in certain breathing and mindfulness techniques,” shared Bubnis. “We have also seen a collective appreciation for a silence that was previously taken with discomfort and unease.”
Art Director Paige Guglielmana explained, “With the JW Foundation, we have been able to move forward with inspiring creativity and self-reliance in our program by giving children the space and tools to do so. We encourage trial and error with their own creations in an inspiring group setting with a product of confidence, empowerment, and also increased mindfulness in their own practices and projects while bonding with each other as a collective group.”
“I have learned so much from the JW Foundation,” shared Surf Director Masaijah Lani. “Working with them has completely restructured the way I coach and help children to reach set goals. The JW Foundation helped to redefine the way I approach mindsets and the feedback that is given while in practice.”

As participants in our semester long Thematic Program project, the staff receive regular support from the JWF team over the course of their program. This support includes

• Monthly emails that lay out a plan for each phase of the program such as staff exploration of concepts, building personal daily habits, analyzing student needs, planning curricular tie-ins, working with students, and reflections on the program
• Scaffolded support of each participating staff member’s daily journaling on slack to analyze daily practice, note struggles, and plan for improvements

If your school would like to participate in one of our Thematic Programs, please fill out this brief application.

An Actor’s Journey Into The Art of Learning

by MATT RYAN

I first came across The Art of Learning in my junior year in college. After about a year pondering Josh’s principles, as well as those of Tim Ferriss, and experimenting with them in my own acting work, I decided to test my knowledge and see if I understood them well enough to teach them to a group of people who were completely unfamiliar with them, and build the foundation of an acting company and show around the principles.

I used one of my favorite plays, A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, to facilitate this process. I knew this show would work well because in order to work with it at all you need to strip away the crushing preconceptions of famous productions that have come before it, and thus are forced to operate from first principles. I also knew doing the show would get better actors to audition and more people in the audience come performance time.

I used Tim Ferriss’ Meta Learning Principle DiSSS (Deconstruction Selection Sequencing Simplification Stakes) to set the ground rules and operating principles for the company and show. In order to work as a team we needed to come up with unified terminology and operating rules. There are so many misconceptions and traps that come along with acting and acting technique, and it is easy for a seven-member cast like ours to all be operating on different frequencies. After a few days of heated debate we came to the conclusion that our goal was the goal set by the forefathers of modern acting, Constantin Stanislavski and Michael Chekhov, which is Creative Self Expression. This is achieved through the way of Form-Transformation-Creative Self Expression; meaning once the form is mastered, then one can transform oneself, once transformation is mastered, true Creative Self Expression can ensue. This goes hand in hand with what Josh teaches in The Art of Learning over and over again. It rang the most true for me when he told the story of forcing The Buffalo to play Chess with him in the Push Hands World Championship.

It was important for this that I not only challenged everyone’s perceptions of what they thought acting was, but even more importantly, showed them that the process they were being taught was not conducive to mastery. I did this by flipping the process they knew so well completely on its head. Instead of the traditional hierarchical process of Director, Assistant Director, Stage Manager, Actors, etc., we would remove the hierarchy and run this like a lean startup, or better yet, like an elite sports team. An NFL team, for instance, trains together, practices together, studies together, plays together, and then when the time comes, performs together. Every player not only plays their position, they are also teacher and coach simultaneously. So for our production everyone was Director, Stage Manager, and Actor. This not only allowed us to be as efficient as possible, it taught us through constant application some of our most important principles. It taught candor with one another as well as with oneself, which then could lead to the most important principle: awareness of process.

We only had three and half weeks from casting to performance to achieve our objective. It is said that it takes an actor 20 years of training to be able to achieve true creative self-expression. So I knew I would have to sacrifice something somewhere. I decided that the technique that it takes to be able to transform oneself completely was far too vast and difficult to teach to a group of varying ability and experience in under 4 weeks. I felt that if I put our energy in the right places, enough transformation would occur through exploring depth with the other principles. So that meant we had to focus solely on awareness and givens of the story (meaning what clues does the playwright give to the actors on what their characters are supposed to do and how they do it.)

For the givens aspect of this, I decided to use Josh’s principle of “Learning the Macro from the Micro.” From personal experience I have noticed that when most actors create a character they only do it from limited perspective – either from their own life experience or from a two dimensional interpretation of character. What I mean by this is that we as people are almost entirely different people based on who we are around, but when people act on stage or screen it seems to be a person reacting exactly the same no matter where they are or who they are around. So we decided to create characters based on their interactions with other characters and other characters only, such that they should be an almost different person based on whom they are around. This taught us who these people were and leads me to my next principles.

“Form to Leave Form”, “Making Smaller Circles”, and “The Power of Presence” pervaded everything we did within these three weeks. Most importantly, they all centered around teaching one of the techniques that is the toughest to teach in acting and a quality that all great actors have, which is making every moment seem like it is the first time it has ever happened. “Living in the Present Moment” is tough when you have experienced that particular moment a hundred times over in rehearsal. We taught this by incorporating it into everything we did. We practiced daily mindfulness meditation. We played what I called the “Surprise Game” – during a scene, any time one actor felt like another was operating on autopilot, they had to surprise them in some way driven by their character. We also would come together as a company after every scene and we would answer a few questions I adopted from Jeff Sutherland’s SCRUM: “What worked? What didn’t work? How am I going to fix it? How am I going to put myself in a position to fail again next time?” These questions helped the cast quickly put themselves in a third person perspective so they could accurately gauge their work and progress over time. The last question, derived from Josh’s ‘Investment in Loss”, became a sort of mantra of ours. We used failure as an objective learning point rather than a subjective learning one. This not only made every acting moment interesting, it caused us to learn much more quickly because we were valuing the process over the results.

In the actual performance we made sure we kept this idea of process over results going. We had each actor performing some sort of an experiment while performing his or her part (I found in my own work that experimenting when the stakes were the highest led to massive learning jumps.) We would then break between each scene and answer our questions in front of the audience. The end result had a tremendous effect on all that attended and especially all that were part of the company. My goal from the beginning of this was that if I inspired one actor enough to realize their full potential or to head himself or herself into the journey of higher learning through Josh’s work, I would have succeeded. I am proud to say that almost every member in the company and a vast majority of the audience (about 40 in attendance) expressed their interest in delving into the world of higher learning.

For me the biggest thing that I realized through this workshop and my own studies with The Art of Learning was that finding this book was like finding a priceless artifact that has been tucked away in your basement for centuries. The more that you explore the artifact and its limits, you find that not only is the artifact the actual foundation of the house, it is the house. The Art of Learning is the key to a world that seems like fantasy, but is actually directly at your fingertips if you only reach for it.

Ithaca College

ITHACA, NY – After a year exploring the relationship between his study of acting and The Art of Learning principles, Matt Ryan, a senior at Ithaca College, developed an independent study through which he would test his knowledge of these concepts by teaching them to a group of people to whom they were completely unfamiliar.
Over the course of three weeks, Ryan and his cast of seven actors used the Tennessee Williams play A Streetcar Named Desire to explore their own connections to The Art of Learning principles and then present them to other members of the Ithaca College community.
Woven through the entire three-week workshop were multiple opportunities for the actors to practice Learning the Macro from the Micro, Making Smaller Circles, The Power of Presence, and Investment in Loss.  Their daily practice involved mindfulness meditation, games that challenged them to stay present within moments they had rehearsed many times before, and frequent reflections on successes and struggles within each scene with an eye toward incremental progress.
The performance itself continued the exploration of Valuing Process Before Results with each actor undertaking some sort of experiment while performing and then breaking between each scene to answer their questions in front of the audience.  Ryan explained that the performance had a powerful effect on the audience and the performers, many of whom have been inspired to continue to pursue deepening their own learning processes.
“For me, the biggest thing that I realized through this workshop and my own studies with The Art of Learning was that finding this book was like finding a priceless artifact that has been tucked away in your basement for centuries.  The more that you explore the artifact and its limits, you find that not only is the artifact the actual foundation of the house, it is the house.  The Art of Learning is the key to a world that seems like fantasy, but is actually directly at your fingertips if you only reach out for it.”

 

To learn more about Matt Ryan’s independent study workshop, read his Learning Journal post.