College admissions IS a mania, but that doesn’t negate the value of hard work

It’s college decision season, so the internet is filled with chatter about the insanity of the current college application process. The main themes are anxiety and frustration. Anxiety driven by the fear that nothing short of a perfect GPA, multiple leadership positions, a resume full of volunteering and a patent will ensure college admission and…

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New grading schemes seem logical, but do they improve student learning?

I have one question for anyone promoting an overhaul of their high school grading system: How will it impact your students’ mindset, motivation, and learning? OK, maybe that’s three questions wrapped in one. But I feel like these are questions nobody is asking, and I want answers. If we’re investing time, money and teacher energy…

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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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We have so much to learn

What did you read over break? As usual I plowed through a few fun books, like Ruth Ware’s The Lying Game, Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere, and Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. But I also set aside time for a few “good” books — you know, the ones that require a little more…

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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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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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Overwhelmed by exceptions

Cartoon from http://theprocessconsultant.com/  If you’re not a teacher, it’s easy to think a teacher’s job is three things: Design and deliver effective lessons Check students’ understanding through daily work, and Evaluate tests and various sort of papers, like essays and lab reports. But that’s just the easy part. Our job is really about managing ambiguity, trying…

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Why do we let kids give up?

I hate it when a student drops my class. At my high school, the beginning of the year is a revolving door of adds and drops, as students try out different classes and re-evaluate the schedules they selected six months earlier, when they were feeling ambitious. This system has a lot of drawbacks — class…

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Not your normal school project

Picture a room packed with 35-40 high school students eager to start working on a project, except you, the teacher, have no idea what the project will be. Will they create pencil cases? T-shirts for school teams? Will they design an app or a bot or an e-book? Or will they make jewelry? Car safety…

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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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