Just got back from five absolutely amazing days in the Perhentian Islands (off the Northeast coast of peninsular Malaysia), where I did two more dives — my first “fun dives,” when I get to just enjoy the dives instead of practicing and being tested on skills.
These were dives #5 and #6 for me, and only on dive #6 did I begin to actually feel confident in my ability to scuba dive. I finally started to control my breathing so I did not run out of air first, cutting short the dive, and I was able to control my buoyancy notably better (when diving, the goal is to use your breathing to move up and down as much as possible, rather than waste energy and oxygen on using your limbs).
So it was very serendipitous to come home from vacation to a new book that had arrived in the mail, John Hattie’s Visible Learning for Teachers, and read his passage about “deliberate practice.” He basically states that sometimes learning is just doing the same thing over and over. He cites Malcolm Gladwell’s writing on how very successful people in popular culture (Bill Gates, the Beatles, Michael Jordan) spent countless hours practicing their skills before any of us every knew about them. Hattie notes that it’s “not repetitive skill and drill, but practice that leads to mastery. A major role of schools is to teach students the value of deliberate practice, such that students can see how practice leads to competence.”
I immediately thought of my diving and how great I felt after dive #6 (which happened to be a totally awesome shipwreck, offering up schools of barracuda, bat fish, and coral cat sharks) because I was finally feeling confident. I needed five previous dives to work through my fears, on my skills, and on my focus so that I could finally relax and enjoy the dive rather than fret over the technical side. It really is about practice, isn’t it?
I need to think more carefully about how to give my students more opportunities for deliberate practice in their reading and writing.
Diving is turning out to be a very good teacher for me!