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Effort, Teaching and Persistence

February 8, 2014

My 6-year old son’s piano teacher asked him yesterday what happens when he practices. “I get better,” he said without hesitation. I admit I’ve been a bit of a Tiger Mom with him since he started lessons, but there’s no denying the results. “Hot-Crossed Buns” gave way to “Old McDonald” in short order, and he’s set his sights on Yuja Wang by 2034. He is quick to point out that she started when she was 6-years old as well.

Harvey Johnson introduced me to Carol Dweck’s concept of a growth mindset several years ago. People with growth mindsets understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. Everyone can get better at anything if they work at it.

I sat behind Alex McIlvaine ’14 on Tuesday night and listened to him provide color commentary for the livestream of the boys’ basketball game. The regular season, out-of-conference game had little consequence, but he charged ahead as if he were working the NBA Finals for TNT. I asked Alex the next day how much better he is covering the games now than at the beginning of the season. “A lot,” he said, indicating how obvious and boring my question was.

My office sits directly over what can only be described as the rock and roll practice room in the O’Brien Arts Center. Each afternoon, Nathan Koski-Vacirca ’16 serenades me with loud and ruthless rhythms on the drums. He pounds away, day after day. When you see him at Arts Weekend with the Jazz Ensemble, try to remember that he’s put in about 300 hours of practice during the year leading up to that 30-minute performance.  

Thirty-six swimmers set personal marks during the DISC Championships last weekend en route to both the girls and boys sweeping the team championships for the first time since 2002. Ask any one of them what practices were like this winter.

Our days here are filled with the kind of effort, practice, teaching, and persistence needed to leave each day a little better than we were the day before. Sometimes, progress can be painfully pedestrian (as this amateur writer can attest), but the faith remains and the practice continues.

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