Introduction To Poetry by Billy Collins

Taken from here:

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

To appreciate or not to appreciate kids/students

Recently, a friend of mine asked me this question:

In my last few interactions with freshers, I have found some to be really good. Although a lot of my conversations with freshers covers encouragement and motivational phrases, I also appreciate (from my heart) good work when I see it, good thoughts as soon as I hear it.

But I have realized that appreciation gets to their head, and they just stop delivering immediately. A day or 2 from the appreciation they just stop.

I was talking to one of my friends and he said something that surprised me. He said, dont appreciate in lots, infact do it in phases. Club appreciation with some criticism/feedback. Freshers have use this a way of feeling really good and actually start thinking that they will get 50L jobs starting tomorrow.

Throw some light on this. I am looking for some wisdom here.

I don’t really have enough expertise in this area, so I did not really venture an opinion.

However, I do remember reading about some research in the area of kids’ motivation, which essentially said this:

Do not praise the achievement. Praise the effort.

Here are more details from an New Yorker Magazine article about experiments conducted by psychologist Carol Dweck and her team:

Dweck sent four female research assistants into New York fifth-grade classrooms. The researchers would take a single child out of the classroom for a nonverbal IQ test consisting of a series of puzzles—puzzles easy enough that all the children would do fairly well. Once the child finished the test, the researchers told each student his score, then gave him a single line of praise. Randomly divided into groups, some were praised for their intelligence. They were told, “You must be smart at this.” Other students were praised for their effort: “You must have worked really hard.”

Then the students were given a choice of test for the second round. One choice was a test that would be more difficult than the first, but the researchers told the kids that they’d learn a lot from attempting the puzzles. The other choice, Dweck’s team explained, was an easy test, just like the first. Of those praised for their effort, 90 percent chose the harder set of puzzles. Of those praised for their intelligence, a majority chose the easy test. The “smart” kids took the cop-out.

These days, I am skeptical of these psychological studies since they study some tiny aspect of psychological theory in isolation, and there is no guarantee that any of this really works in practice. As someone said, in theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice, there is.

But that article does have a lot of interesting insights to chew up.

In any case, those who have some experience in this area (those with grown up kids, or those with some sort of a teaching background, or any other relevant experience), can you weigh in on this topic. What do you think?

(You should also check out the comments on this topic on my Facebook page)