Getting Better at Getting Better

“High performance isn’t, ultimately, about running faster, throwing harder, or leaping farther. It’s about something much simpler: getting better at getting better."
-James Surowiecki
The New Yorker
November 10, 2014

Athletes are always looking for an edge— more time in the weight room, improved diets, obsessive film study, and even virtual reality— and the greatest athletes will stop at nothing to get better. In the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, we heard over and over about how competitive and driven Tom Brady is, and even though the Patriots lost, his dedication to excellence was on display (throwing for a Super Bowl record 505 yards). Since 2001, Tom Brady has been obsessed with getting better at getting better. What drives him is an inner desire for excellence.

People across all walks of life— not just athletes— could learn from competitors like Tom Brady. For someone to be a high performer in the courtroom, at the conference table, or in the classroom, it takes a willingness to identify areas of improvement and a relentless dedication to excellence, and some experts would say that takes 10,000 hours.

In standardized math tests, Japanese children consistently score higher than their American counterparts. While some assume that a natural proclivity toward mathematics is the primary difference, researchers have discovered that it may have more to do with effort than ability. In one study involving first graders, students were given a difficult puzzle to solve. The researchers weren’t interested in whether or not the children could solve the puzzle; they simply wanted to see how long they would try before giving up. The American children lasted, on average, 9.47 minutes. The Japanese children lasted 13.93 minutes. In other words, the Japanese children tried about 40 percent longer. Is it any wonder that they score higher on math exams? Researchers concluded that the difference in math scores might have less to do with intelligence quotient and more to do with persistence quotient. The Japanese first graders simply tried harder.

That study not only explains the difference in standardized math scores; the implications are true no matter where you turn. It doesn’t matter whether it’s athletics or academics, music or math. There are no shortcuts. There are no substitutes. Success is a derivative of persistence.

More than a decade ago, Anders Ericsson and his colleagues at Berlin’s elite Academy of Music did a study with musicians. With the help of professors, they divided violinists into three groups: world-class soloists, good violinists, and those who were unlikely to play professionally. All of them started playing at roughly the same age and practiced about the same amount of time until the age of eight. That is when their practice habits diverged. The researchers found that by the age of twenty, the average players had logged about four thousand hours of practice time; the good violinists totaled about eight thousand hours; the elite performers set the standard with ten thousand hours. While there is no denying that innate ability dictates some of your upside potential, your potential is only tapped via persistent effort. Persistence is the magic bullet, and the magic number seems to be ten thousand.

Neurologist Daniel Levitin notes, "The emerging picture from such studies is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert — in anything. In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, and what have you, this number comes up again and again … No one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery."

Batterson, Mark. The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears (pp. 85-86). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

As educators, we must be committed to getting better at getting better, and we need to challenge our students to do the same. True mastery happens over time when, day in and day out, we strive to get better at getting better.

  • Students from Miss Selma’s had a great time visiting our campus on Tuesday. A big thanks goes to our 7th grade teachers— Angie Diles, Angela Kyle, Sheila Killgore, and Patrick Smith— for accommodating our guests, being so welcoming, and making the day such a great experience.

  • We had a great time on the 8th grade field trip to UALR. A big thanks to Christy Sherrill, Jan Penrod, Carrie Vick, Caroline Prestridge, and Keith Almond for spending the day with our students. It’s never too early to get students thinking about college, and the UALR trip is a great way to kickstart that thinking.

  • On Wednesday, Erik Schramm visited the NLR kindergarteners as a guest scientist to help them understand solids, liquids, and gases. The kids loved it (who isn’t fascinated by dry ice?!), and needless to say, it was an awesome experience. Way to go, Mr. Schramm.

  • Last week, Caroline Prestridge attended the Lit Lab at Harding University. While there, Caroline learned some great reading strategies, was able to collaborate with teachers from all over the state, and on Tuesday night, she was able to hear Ron Clark speak.

  • It’s All-Region band and choir time, which means Travis Kaye and James Wilhite will be spending several extra hours taking students to assessments and auditions. Last weekend, Travis and Luke McClanahan traveled to Batesville, and yesterday, James took four students to Conway. Despite the extra hours and time commitment, these are great opportunities for our students.

  • Our high school football coaching staff will be in Dallas today and the rest of the weekend. This will be a great time for Tommy Shoemaker, Jordan Watson, Hayden Cruce, Chris Morse, and Patrick Smith to learn new techniques, visit with other coaches, and meet as a staff to plan for next year. I’m thankful they’re taking the time to grow as a staff and develop ways to lead and mentor our students.

Upcoming Events
  • Today
    • Bowling Conference Match (Cabot; all day)
    • Split Chapel (Boys- auditorium; Girls- atrium)
    • Winter Sports Senior Night
  • Saturday, Feb. 10— ACT Testing
  • Wednesday, Feb. 14
    • Valentine’s Day
    • 6th Grade Field Trip (Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub; 8:30-12:30)
  • Thursday, Feb. 15— Family Chapel
  • Friday, Feb. 16— Faculty Inservice Day (8:00-3:30)
  • Tuesday, Feb. 20— 7th & 8th Grade Schedule Change (final one!)
  • Tuesday, Feb.20-Thursday, Feb. 22— College Tour

Anything missing? If so, please let me know.

Responsibilities for the Week of February 12-16
Week A
  • Cafeteria AM— K. Holland
  • Cafeteria PM— T. Shoemaker
  • Parking Lot AM— M. Leverett
  • Parking Lot PM
  • HS Lunch— I. Thomas, B. Spencer, & J. Gates
  • MS Lunch— T. Shoemaker & K. Almond
  • Chapel— A. Diles
    • Monday A. Diles
    • Tuesday A. Diles
    • Wednesday— Worshipful Wednesday (C. Tappe)
    • Thursday— Family Chapel
    • Friday— No School (PD Day)
  • Detention— M. Leverett

Remember, it is your responsibility to find a replacement if you are unable to cover your assigned duty. Click here for duty schedule.

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