I was out for lunch with Finbar this weekend. We went to one of our favourites restaurants in NYC, "Osteria Morini" (if you live here or are in town you should try it out). We were talking about food and I was telling him that it amazes me how much I like cooking. When I lived in London I had learnt to cook, and I liked it, but I was never all that ambitious at the time. I thought that cooking was magic, something only the gifted could do. But now, I have started cooking more ambitious dishes, and I'm having a great time.
He asked, what is different now? I said that now I cook because I am interested in cooking, and not because I need to eat. Because I am interested, I have started to try new things. And, I have learned that it's not magic, it's not limited to people with special gifts. With practice, I can cook too!
Sometimes people are gifted in an area, and it comes naturally to them. It's easy to think they're the only people who can be good at what they do. But it's not true! Someone who is interested in something can practice, and become good at it or even master it. There is research that shows that expertise in a skill depends mostly on practice. Talent helps, but practice is far more important. People with talents tend to practice because it's fun to be good at something. But, people who are interested can practice something because it's fun - and that way they become good at it! The key in education is to try to tap into that effect, to help the children discover new interests wherever possible. Wherever we can find the fun, we can practice without it being work. Of course, for each child there may be things that aren't fun; but what a gift it is when we find new things that are!