Adaptability Project Reading: Review of How Children Succeed by Paul Tough

The Adaptability Project is comprised of a group of George School faculty members who will come together over a two-year period to study the new landscape of secondary education. We will share readings, discuss vision and strategy, and engage the community in a larger conversation about how the school can adapt as we strive to remain vital and relevant.

After reading The Human Side of School Change by Robert Evans last week, How Children Succeed by Paul Tough was a refreshing change of pace. The book is a breezily written page-turner, and one gets engrossed in the stories of the students and teachers whose travails Tough chronicles.

Unlike the previous book, this one is less relevant to the Adaptability Project, but it is hugely relevant to anyone in the teaching business. The book’s focus on the importance of noncognitive skills seems right up the alley of our Foundational Skills Committee. (In fact, FSC explicitly aims to encourage the teaching of metacognition in the GS freshman program.) Also, there is much in the book that is encouraging to people who are part of our residential program. Tough explains that, even relatively late in one’s adolescence, the damage done by a stressful childhood can be reversed. The surrogate parenting done by dormstaff at a boarding school, for instance, could heal the damage done to students’ academic and noncognitive skills, especially in a safe environment such as ours.

The book also makes me want to take up chess again. In the last few decades, I’ve watched my alma mater, Princeton Day School, build a wonderful chess program. It makes more sense for them because they are a K-12 school, and the best time to get started in competitive chess is years before students enter high school. Nonetheless, I’d love to see us try to start up a program here.

I heartily recommend How Children Succeed to anyone in the education business, and anyone who is a parent, too.



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