Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Dumbest Person in the Room ... and Loving It

In August, I had the pleasure to visit the Google Headquarters in downtown Chicago as part of the CPS Googlepalooza conference.  Google flew in top Apps for Education people from all over the nation for this event, and in the course of the two days, we heard, met, and learned so much.

Two of the people who spoke that week were Jaime Casap, Google's Global EDU Evangelist (who wouldn't want that title?) and Jim Lecinski, the head of Google's office in Chicago.

My favorite quote from the conference was spoken by Jaime Casap in the midst of a roundtable Q&A with the Googlers.  Speaking of his job, he said "I love being the dumbest person in a room of really smart people!"  He was clearly being self-deprecating since he is a smart guy.

But what does "I love being the dumbest person in a room of really smart people" really mean?

• It is really hard to grow when you think you're the smartest person in the room.
If you think you have little to gain, you're probably right.  People who think they're the smartest person in a room are difficult to relate to.

• Put yourself in risky situations where your mind may be totally blown.
Two years ago, I went to an EdCamp wanting to attend a scripting session.  I didn't know anything about scripting, but I wanted to know about it.  It was one of those times where I was in way over my head, but I loved that feeling.  Today, I look for opportunities to have that same mind-blowing feeling.

• Have a growth mindset.
When you surround yourself with really smart people, you start to question yourself.  Don't be afraid to grow based on those questions - those really smart people in the room probably questioned themselves at one point, too.
Growth Mindset anchor chart from @escott818

Everyone wants to look smart, including our students.
What do we do to get students to be comfortable with the idea of being the "dumbest person in a room of really smart people" and not feeling down about themselves?  Let me be clear: I am talking about a growth mindset here - not achievement or excuses.

• Develop relationships.
Students need to recognize the "really smart part" of every student. Trying to appear smart (or class clown) is a coping or defense mechanism when we don't feel valued in another way.  Developing relationships, recognizing the "How are you smart?" in every student, and being able to say "You matter!" lowers the defenses.

• Support student goal-setting.
Goals really are just framing our shortcomings in a positive, action-oriented way.  Goals say "I need something here - I am missing something here.  Here's how I will set about achieving it."  Goal setting moves a person into a growth mindset, as long as the goals are achievable and supported by others.

• Celebrate accomplishment.
How do kids celebrate accomplishment in a video game?  By moving on to the next level!  Same thing in a classroom.  Celebrate accomplishment and move on to bigger goals.

I hope to make my next blog post about my other big take-away from Google HQ.

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