Forgetting is part of our nature

You didn’t tell us to read that chapter. I didn’t know there was a test today! I was supposed to take out the garbage? How often do we share an important piece of information with our students — or children or colleagues or friends, for that matter — and find the next day, they’ve completely…

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Compassion alone is not enough

In high schools nationwide, and mine is no exception, we are seeing more and more teenagers suffering from mental health crises. Students at my school are talking openly about this – trying to raise awareness by making videos, creating T-shirts, and even speaking to the faculty. This is good. We need to be made aware…

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What can they do besides ‘school’?

One of my favorite lines in Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk: Do Schools Kill Creativity? is when he points out that schools are really really good at preparing students to become professors. And, I would add, teachers. Academia is nothing if not self-perpetuating. We teach students to write papers and lab reports in styles that…

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Kids can’t stop themselves – time for the adults to step in

How often do you check your smartphone? Every hour? Every five minutes? Multiple times per minute? Stop and think about why. Are you really waiting for an urgent call — say, from a doctor, a family member or your boss? Or are you just hoping there will be something cool or funny there? A bit…

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How do you talk about ‘intelligence’?

Thanks to Carol Dweck’s work on the Growth Mindset, we know it matters how we react to student performance. Compliments for “being smart” help foster a fixed mindset and a reluctance to embrace challenge, while shout-outs for “working hard” foster a growth mindset and a desire for challenge. That’s all well and good, but what…

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What makes teams work? Ask Google

Google has spent 1000s of hours trying to figure out how to make people work better in teams. The answer? Teams are most effective when there is “psychological safety” — in other words, everyone feels safe contributing ideas, questioning others (even the boss), and sharing problems. In the best teams, people feel free to offer…

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Do SMART goals limit teachers’ vision?

Writing SMART goals — “Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound” — is now a fall rite of passage for public school teachers, right up there with crafting a syllabus, assigning seats and putting up bulletin boards. This process always strikes me as perfunctory. Do SMART goals really get us anywhere? Or is this just another…

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Let’s get serious about stereotype threat

It’s been 20 years since Steele and Aronson first published their work on “stereotype threat,” demonstrating that we are profoundly influenced by internalized cultural stereotypes about ourselves. Since then, more than 300 peer-reviewed experiments have found similar results. Time and time again, we find that individuals perform worse in school, limit their career options and…

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A cynical take on the value of school

Last week, a Slate.com article on a new technology to track mental engagement (Pay Attention!) raised the issue of boredom in school, quoting this stat: “82 percent of U.S. high school students report being sometimes or often bored in class.” Like me, the writer Mary Mann (also the author of Yawn: Adventures in Boredom) clearly…

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What do ‘experts’ have to offer us?

For the past few weeks, I’ve been going to physical therapy to deal with rotator cuff tendinitis in my right shoulder. At my intake appointment, I learned that I brought this problem on myself by doing what I thought was “the right thing.” For years, I thought I was helping my shoulders and preventing future…

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