I have a few life-long and very excellent friends, the kind I can call any time of day or once in three years and get exactly what I need – wise counsel, honest feedback, a riveting story.
My friend Susan is one of those friends and even though I don’t see her as much as I’d like to, I still count on her a lot. She was my department chair when I was a young teacher at Collegiate School in New York and sixteen years later, I am still turning to her for book recommendations and using her notes to teach Emily Dickinson’s “This Was a Poet.”
She recently pointed me to Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter Brown, Henry Roediger and Mark McDaniel. The main question they take up is, how can we be better learners with better recall and powers of synthesis?
First, they insist, we stop mistaking fluency with mastery. It isn’t enough for us to be familiar with the material we’re studying – we need to be able to elaborate upon it and connect it with other things, contextualize it. We need to space out our study and vary our practice, “interleaving” knowledge over time. “A little forgetting,” they say, “is crucial to learning” because in forgetting (a little) and retrieving knowledge, we build stronger memory.
Their answers are helpful to me in my work as a school administrator, as a teacher, as a parent, and as a graduate student. And they remind me of what it is that deepens both knowledge and friendship – commitment, experience, and the passage of time.
Thank you for being one of the most important things that lasts in my life. xox