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First Eggs

Our chickens gave us our first eggs this week.  It was so exciting to see those two eggs just sitting in the nesting box.  While it seems simple, it’s actually a culmination of months of effort.  Buying and raising chicks, 3 bags of feed, building a coop and run, bringing them in and out daily, and lots of cleaning.

So, you’d think I’d be frying up and enjoying these first eggs.  However, while one of the eggs was small but perfectly formed, the other had a really soft shell that felt more like a stress ball than an egg.  We won’t be eating that first egg.  Like so many things in life, even with lots of effort sometimes our first crack at something is not always the best version.

This experience is a good analogy for design thinking.  If you are not familiar with design thinking, I suggest A.J. Julliani’s blog post, Beginner’s Guide to Design Thinking, as a starting point.  Most design thinking strategies encourage thinkers to get their initial prototypes out to others for input as quickly as possible.  The next step is to gather feedback and use it to improve on the design.  This is often a challenging idea for most people.  We tend to suffer from perfection paralysis, not wanting to share or try out ideas until we are sure they are just right.  The problem with this is that often even the best laid plans are still just first “eggs” and may not come out or be received as perfectly as we intended.  While preparation can be a good thing, it can also hinder the creative process and limit our willingness to move ideas forward and take the risks that are necessary to design something that works.  Gifted students may have a particularly hard time with this idea.  Perfectionism and the ability gifted students often have to think through multiple solutions and outcomes can leave them paralyzed when it comes to quickly prototyping a design.  Here are several things you can do as a teacher or parent to encourage students to make that first attempt:

  1. Use the Habits of Mind to encourage a growth mindset and focus on habits that help students learn to take responsible risks and encourage creativity and innovation.

  2. Show students how a process of collecting feedback and iterating an idea can lead to improvements. The Austin Butterfly lesson and video area great resource for teaching and sharing this process.

  3. Watch your own language and response. Think about the enthusiasm you have when a child takes his or her first steps.  We don’t say “no you held on to the couch to long” or “oops you fell down.”  We clap our hands and cheer and encourage them to try again. How might things be different if we used this same technique (maybe modified slightly) when our child struggles to load the dishwasher or solve a math problem.

  4. Allow students who struggle with this to build up their skills in iteration by focusing the evaluation of the task on how quickly they share a prototype or how many times they iterate or revise the prototype rather than on the final project. Showcase how a design or project changes over time, not just the final result.

  5. Increase the students comfort with feedback by allowing them to share with a small group or individual of their choice.

Getting students to lay that first egg can be as much work as it is with my hens.  In both cases it takes providing the right environment and patience.  Sometimes it’s difficult and we are slightly disappointed by those first eggs, but without those first attempts we’ll never get independent, design thinking students or omelets for breakfast.  We can encourage our children and chickens to iterate, iterate, iterate but in the end, the tough work is up to them and children and hens tend to do things when they are good and ready.  I hope mine are ready soon!

Do you have a child or student that struggles with starting something because they are afraid it won’t be right?  Gather some information about their fear and try to understand it from their perspective, then design an experience to help them move forward.  Don’t wait for the perfect solution – make a first “egg” and then iterate, iterate, iterate!  Be urgently optimistic.  Share what happens here.  We can all learn from each other’s first “eggs”.

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