Secrets to Success

Posted by Debbie Gibbs on 11/1/13 10:01 PM

The fourth annual NBC News Education Nation Summit was held at The New York Public Library October 6-8, 2013. The Summit’s focus was “What It Takes” to ensure that US students are prepared for college, career, and beyond. Parents, teachers, policymakers, and employers explored the critical factors for student success. Speakers included:

  • Dennis Walcott, Chancellor, New York City Department of Education
  • Tony Marx, President, The New York Public Library
  • Rehema Ellis, NBC News Chief Education Correspondent
  • Erica Hill, Co-Anchor, Today, Weekend Edition on NBC News

What Else is Needed for Success

Many wise and thoughtful people were gathered at the summit. I'd like to add my own thoughts about what our children need to succeed now and in the future.

Students need to be confident, resourceful, and persevering. They need to repeatedly experience the kind of learning that comes from trial-and-error, exploring iterations of the same task, drafting and re-drafting work, and playing on both winning AND losing teams.

Students need to be emotionally healthy and available for the challenges and disappointments that come their way. They need to have had the chance to fail in friendship, in schoolwork, and in play so that they can develop the kind of grit it takes to handle bumps along the journey of life.

Students need to feel connected to others. They need to have experienced support and connection—ideally in a variety of relationships, with mentors, friends, and family.

Students need to have a sense of direction led by high interest. They need to have had the opportunity to explore their passions. They also need to have had many opportunities for choice that then require follow-through.

Students need to experience learning as one of the things in life that brings great satisfaction—something incredibly rewarding for themselves and for others. This means that the learning environment needs to be engaging and designed to help build self-motivation and self-discipline.

Students need to be able to solve intellectual, emotional, and social problems. They need many and varied opportunities to develop and implement solutions as part of their formal and informal education and upbringing.

Among the essential tools for learning and success are reading, writing, and mathematical competency, as well as technological literacy. These skills need to have been taught well and practiced frequently in deep and integrated ways. Consistency and repetition help students connect the usefulness and purpose of various academic literacies and build the desire to excel in these areas.

Looking for a school for your child?

Lowell School is an independent school in the Colonial Village neighborhood of Washington, DC, that offers Pre-Primary, Primary, and Middle School programs. It offers a rigorous and hands-on curriculum that nurtures each child’s natural curiosity and desire to learn, and supports the development of individual voice and self-reliance. For more information, please call 202-577-2000, email, or follow Lowell on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Topics: Teaching & Learning

Debbie Gibbs

Written by Debbie Gibbs

Debbie Gibbs is a former head of Lowell School. She earned her BA in theater arts from Pomona College, her BS in elementary education from the University of Minnesota, and her MA in educational technology from the University of San Francisco. Her career as a school administrator began when she became interim assistant director at The Blake Schools in Minneapolis, MN. She went on to become the head of upper school and assistant head for academic affairs at Marin Country Day School in California. She became Lowell's fourth head of school in 2007. She has served on the Board of the Association of Independent Maryland Schools (AIMS) and the editorial board of Independent School Magazine, a publication of the National Association of Independent Schools.