"If everything was perfect, you would never learn and you would never grow."
"I embrace mistakes. They make you who you are."
Thanks to a book study we are preparing to do at work, I discovered the podcast, Curios Minds. This led me to the TEDx Talk posted below. If you have ever struggled to get better at something you cared about—becoming a more masterful teacher, playing the guitar, or increasing your client base—then you must take about 12 minutes to view this profound and insightful message about alternating between two potentially powerful zones.
The part that fascinated me the most was when Eduardo Briceño, the Co-Founder and CEO of Mindset Works, explains an intriguing habit developed by the pop diva, Beyoncé Knowles.
When Beyoncé is on tour, during the concert, she's in her performance zone, but every night when she gets back to the hotel room, she goes right back into her learning zone. She watches a video of the show that just ended. She identifies opportunities for improvement, for herself, her dancers and her camera staff. And the next morning, everyone receives pages of notes with what to adjust, which they then work on during the day before the next performance. It's a spiral to ever-increasing capabilities, but we need to know when we seek to learn, and when we seek to perform, and while we want to spend time doing both, the more time we spend in the learning zone, the more we'll improve.So basically, she engages in the music industry's version of Lesson Study. By scrutinizing her game tape, she transitions from the performance zone to the learning zone, constantly seeking ways to improve her practice. The feedback loop she's created has skyrocketed her to the top of the Billboard charts, and more importantly, it's helped her achieve what Dan Pink deems foundational to intrinsic motivation—autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
I think as seasoned educators, we spend a lot of time in the performance zone. Day in and day out, we step into our classrooms, put on our best Academy Award performance, and pray that our teaching sticks. Rarely do we have the time for observation, reflection, and adjustment—essential admission requirements for entering the learning zone.
Of course establishing environments where this type of risk taking is both welcomed and celebrated will require all stakeholders to get curious, creative, and courageous. The educational terrain is littered with landmines designed to extinguish our desire to learn. Classrooms have become high stakes performance zones full of dangerous explosives—grades, standardized tests, and exams with one right answer leave a trail of shrapnel, wounding everyone in the path. Until mistakes, feedback, failure, and revision are held in the same high regards as straight A's, true learning may remain elusive. This is true for students and teachers. It doesn't matter if its a quarterly report card or and annual T-TESS appraisal, performance evaluations rarely have the impact we seek.
So how do we do navigate the complicated path between the learning zone and the performance zone? The sage advice in the image below will guide me this year as I learn to stop over-performing and embrace a gentler approach to improvement. Words like ask, listen, experiment, reflect, and strive will replace