In the zone

I've spent some time this summer reading Colvin's Talent is Overrated.  I have read a lot of it.  But am trying to figure out more about how to apply its principles to my teaching life.  Specifically, I want to delibrately practice my teaching craft in such a way that I am improving.

But I realized that the book's principle of delibirate practice cuts two ways for a teacher:  we need to think about how we practice, but we also need to think about how our students practice.  

I had two students come after school for tutoring in AP Stats a lot this last year.  They both earned a 2 (not passing) on the AP test.  Heart-breaking 2's.  Every AP teacher knows what this feels like.  Hard working students who you like and they don't quite make it.

But it makes me wonder how I had them practice.  It was probably too routine.  Too familiar.  Learn the basics.  "Here, do another one" (just like the one you just did).  

I could be too hard on myself.  Maybe without the tutoring they would have earned 1's.

But the idea that ignites my imagination is the Learning Zone.  Colvin talks about the comfort zone, learning zone and panic zone.  Students usually come to tutoring because they feel panicked.  But do I let them slide all the way to comfort?  Or do I keep them learning?

For that matter, how do I keep my class in the Learning Zone?  I've been trying to lecture less and let students work more.  But Hunter's "Guided practice" may not be learning.  At least not enough learning.  It may just be comfortable practice that looks a lot like the lecture.

Much to learn!