Let’s stop teaching like it’s 1899

Have you seen the picture? You know, the sepia-toned one with all of the kids sitting in desks in straight rows, representing American public schools 100 years ago? Or the newer version, the stock photo that got many of us riled up at Education Secretary Betsy DeVos? Because no, of course we don’t teach like…

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Girls need grit, too

I’ve noticed a small but disturbing trend in my AP Macroeconomics classes: Girls are more likely to give up. Although very few students drop my class — only a handful in the past five years — so far it’s only been girls. When I hear from their parents, I often hear things like: She’s so…

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Teamwork: Annoying AND essential

Should high school students work in teams — or solo? When I was a student, we did about 90 percent of our work alone. With the exception of lab work in science and the occasional English group project, we were expected to learn independently, so we would be prepared for individual success later. Back then,…

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Not giving up on homework yet

When I first started teaching in 1994, assigning homework was a no-brainer. It was part of the Madeline Hunter model — “independent practice” — and part of preparing high school students for independent learning in college. It’s also how I was taught. In high school in the ’80s, I spent hours each night doing math…

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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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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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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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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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