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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First, don’t embarrass anyone

One of my former students, now a sophomore, visited the other day and reminisced about last year’s econ class. It was a hard class for him, but he pulled through with a B-. Out of the blue, he said: “I wasn’t afraid of you.”  I was a little taken aback. “What do you mean?” I…

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Parenting with a future teen in mind

I became a teacher the same year I became a parent: 1994. It’s impossible for me to separate the two in my mind. I can’t imagine teaching without the parent perspective, and I can’t imagine parenting without thinking of our children as the teenagers/students they would become. As our kids grew up, I frequently found…

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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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So I was a little busy…

I try to post to this blog once a week, but sometimes I fall behind. Like the last three weeks. What happened? It’s not that I didn’t want to write, and it’s definitely not that I’d run out of things to say. I have opinions about nearly everything, and I’m constantly filing away ideas during…

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Are there good reasons to miss class?

No one likes it when students are out of class. Absenteeism is a big reason students fall behind (and fail), and it’s frustrating when students miss instruction, can’t grasp the material independently and then require our help outside of school hours. But what about when they are absent for a “good reason”? When I was…

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83% get a diploma, but what is it worth?

What should a high school diploma mean? What should 12 years of public education add up to? In my view, it should mean you are ready for a job or for general postsecondary training. It should mean we have given you the appropriate skills for your next academic step. Not every graduate needs to be…

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Motivation, without the guilt

At the end of last year, when I was stepping down as newspaper adviser, my student editors put together a surprise “tribute” page where they shared nice comments about me. One that really stuck with me was this: “She always pushed me to work harder and never made me feel guilty for not finishing something.”…

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Yes, fun is a good goal

Have you ever run into students over the summer who told you excitedly that they are studying vocabulary for next year? Drawing graphs? Solving problems with formulas? Reading textbooks? No, probably not. Last night I ran into three students at a Junior Achievement event, and they couldn’t wait to tell me what they’d been doing…

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All kids deserve to compete

Taking my students to competitions — like the Junior Achievement Student Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. this week — is rewarding because they work hard and perform well, and sometimes they win. It’s also humbling because I get to see how much energy teenagers will devote to an activity they love. In class, kids might…

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