PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA – Ace Academics is a math and science focused tutoring organization serving students from grades 2 through 12. Founder, Sal Enslin, is dedicated to helping her students develop self-confidence, curiosity, and a sense of personal agency in their learning processes.
“Many students experience maths and science as a necessary evil. They think of these subjects as abstract and boring, and they often just want to get those over and done. Many students are convinced that they have no talent for this; that they are not smart and are often completely disengaged from the learning process, “ Enslin explains. “If I could show them that their brain is capable of way more than the school system has led them to believe, and give them the tools to find out what that might be… that would be incredible. If we could discover how each student learns, how that would play out in his or her environment, and how he or she could apply what we do to anything else they want to learn, it would enrich their lives a lot.”
Each tutoring session is unique, depending on the needs of the participating students. Additionally, the learning principles Enslin incorporates into these sessions, and the methods used to explore them, vary depending on the group. Many of her older students have been reading and discussing sections of The Art of Learning Student Guide in order to provide a general introduction to TAOL principles and open a conversation about their relationships to those concepts. Enslin is beginning to incorporate peer feedback in several of her tutoring sessions as a means to practice Investment in Loss. She is practicing Stress and Recovery with her students by taking breaks during difficult tasks to explore student passions and interests, and regularly incorporates Listening First into her work with each student in order to understand what drives them, how they learn, and any underlying needs that may affect their learning processes.
SANTA FE, NM – Geoffrey Moon is a Gifted Education Specialist within the Services for Advanced and Gifted Education Department for the Santa Fe Public Schools. He first heard Josh Waitzkin speak at the National Association for Gifted Children conference in 2009, and has maintained an interest in bringing The Art of Learning principles to New Mexico public school students since that time.
“Josh’s story is a fantastic platform for allowing kids to look at what being pushed does to them and what making their own push and following their own bliss does for their motivation and their talent development,” Moon explains. “I think the book is pretty authentic… in the way it speaks from the first person, unlike a lot of the materials we use that come from a “you ought to” approach. It also breaks down some of his lessons learned in a way that allows students to explore each one and say ‘Do I need to internalize this? Does this affect me, or is it about somebody else and how am I different?’”
The Santa Fe public school system is in the process of expanding their gifted education programs to include greater numbers of minority students, English language learners, and economically disadvantaged students than have historically participated. As part of this push, Moon is developing a seminar course for 8th and 9th grade students who have been identified as gifted or potentially gifted. He emphasizes the importance of helping these students develop breadth, observational skills, and critical thinking skills in order to understand themselves as learners and embrace challenge, rather than allowing them to develop a learning path exclusively in response to the skills they believe they already possess.
Throughout this course, students will read The Art of Learning, explore and discuss concepts from the book that are applicable and identifiable to all the students, and then begin to explore how they will each challenge themselves moving forward. As a culmination to the seminar, each student will create a self-development plan to carry with them beyond high school. It will serve as a dossier with current strengths, weaknesses, experiences, and interests, as well as plans for next steps after leaving high school and being on their own. Moon’s hope is that this plan will support these students as they transition into college and beyond, and encourage them to continue to stretch and grow as learners, independent of the high school support system.
GREENSBOROUGH, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA – Leon Harvey coaches the 7-9 year old “Tackers” group in this Australian junior football league. As a coach, he is not only interested in teaching his athletes how to improve their football skills, but to use their love for the game as a platform to teach skills that will improve their lives overall. “I want the kids to get the most out of this possible,” Harvey explains. “I see football as a ‘gateway drug’ to learning and self-development. With Josh’s material I have taken advantage of the learning opportunities in sport that can apply to all parts of their lives”
For many of the children on Harvey’s team, football is much more than an extra-curricular activity. “For some, their hopes and dreams are based on their ability to perform and win, potentially creating unrealistic self-expectations,” he explains. “Some kids are quiet and reserved and suffer low self-esteem. Some are kinesthetic learners or challenged by learning difficulties, where traditional classroom teaching doesn’t work, and some are going through a rough time at home. Football is their passion and outlet, and so being a coach presents a huge opportunity to do so much more than just teach sporting skills. I use The Art of Learning as a framework that supports me to tackle these issues to build resiliency in our kids.”
“Competitive sports, like football, are a great platform for coaches to translate Josh’s material. I go back to the resources regularly to help me see the learning opportunities that present themselves on the field. There are many ways to turn experiences in the field into positive lifelong lessons using Josh’s themes: I use game defeats to teach about Investment in Loss, bad referee decisions to describe The Downward Spiral, quarter time break to practice Listening First, and the simple act of kicking a ball to teach The Power of Presence.”
In addition to exploring the learning principles with his athletes, Harvey believes it’s important to share the concepts with their parents in order to reinforce the learning at home. He sends an email to each child’s parents after every game in order to re-frame the events of the game within the context of The Art of Learning principles and highlight the learning opportunities they presented to the kids.
“I wish I had access to The Art of Learning when I was competing as a kid. I want the kids to see even when the stakes are high and the pressure is on that it’s okay to lose. It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s all part of the journey of learning, trying, failing, and succeeding. I hope that my team can learn more about footy and themselves by the end of the season. Game after game the patterns will start to emerge. Even if they don’t ultimately go on to enjoy a football career, the lessons can apply in all parts of their lives.”
DUBLIN, IRELAND – Colaiste Dhulaigh is a community college in Dublin, Ireland, dedicated to providing the students within the community with the skills and confidence they need to further their education and enter the workforce. Dave Curran, the Head of Journalism and a Student Services team member in the Media department at the college, has found The Art of Learning to be an invaluable resource on his own path to learning and growth and has shared the book with many friends and colleagues. Curran explains that one of the aspects of the book that appeals to him is that, “Josh’s principles of learning take the mystique out of talent and progress. He makes excellence feel attainable.”
Curran plans to teach a seminar to journalism and media production students in which he hopes to provide the students with the tools to “approach tasks differently, aware that a result different to the one they hoped to achieve will be treated as learning rather than failure.”
The seminar will use learning principles such as Listening First and Loving the Game to help students discover their passions, The Power of Presence to provide the tools to improve focus in all aspects of learning, and Value Process Before Results and Investment in Loss to emphasize the learning opportunities present in mistakes.
“I want students to think creatively about how they approach their learning by viewing bad results or a lack of focus as something other than failure. Rather, they should treat these as steps toward being better students by reflecting on the causes.”