Several days ago, I saw a tweet from Amy Fast sharing a quote from author/researcher Shawn Achor:

Before, we could only ask questions like “How smart are you?” or “How creative are you?” or “How hard do you work?” But now, we can ask the bigger questions: “How smart do you make others around you?” “How much creativity do you inspire?” “How much does your drive become contagious to a team or family?”

In other words, according to his research,  a person’s future individual success depends on one’s effectiveness with those last three “bigger questions.”

The concept is obviously attractive to me, and fits into other ideas I’ve shared at The Best Resources On Developing A Sense Of Community In The Classroom.

That was the first time I had heard of Achor, though, and I’ve ordered his book to more carefully examine his concepts and research.

However, I didn’t wait to try out this idea in class.

One student (let’s call him “John”) is very intelligent, likable, and viewed as a leader by his classmates.  He is often very unfocused, though, and can easily distract others because of his leadership role.  He and I have been talking about this issue for three years, and there has been little or no change.

A few days ago, I shared this snippet of research with him and asked him, once again, if he wanted to use his leadership ability for “good” or for “less-than-good” purposes.  He seemed intrigued by the idea of his future success being based on how much he helped others around him and we decided that instead of doing the regular warm-up each day, he would write about what he had done the day before and what he was planning to do that day to help make other people “smarter” in our class and elsewhere.  We discussed what that might look like – modeling focus by not coming in singing, helping others who were less proficient in English, etc.

He and I would meet briefly once or twice a week to review what he had been writing and doing.

It’s certainly too early to call this intervention a success.  However, it has clearly been far more effective so far than anything else we’ve done during the past three years.  He has been exceptionally focused, respectful and helpful.

I’ll give a progress report in a few weeks and, depending on how it goes, might see if he wants to write about it for this blog, too.