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…

Read More

NeverBore starts with teacher training

If you had one full day to spend with brand new pre-service teachers just starting their masters’ program, what would you do? How would you prepare them for the challenges ahead?  Some teachers I know — frustrated by the low status, low pay and increasing pressure for standardized test performance — would tell them “get…

Read More

What is your purpose?

Over the weekend, I bumped into the same three words – “sense of purpose” — everywhere I went. I read about new research showing that people with a sense of purpose are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, even if their brains develop all of the signatures tangles and plaques. A sense of purpose is also…

Read More

Titles should mean something

If you spend much time around kids, you know what “nose goes” means. You’re looking for a volunteer, and suddenly everyone touches a finger to their nose to signify “not me!” Last one to touch their nose is “it.” High school students are very quick to use “nose goes” when you need someone to run…

Read More

What students learn from each other

I’ve always been reluctant to let students teach other students, for a few reasons: First, how much do students really know? Second, will they give each other honest feedback? Third, are the “teaching” students losing their own opportunity to be challenged? This year, I’ve seen how powerful students teaching students can be. I’ve been so…

Read More

Can you growth-mindset your way into college?

As teachers and parents, we want our teenagers to try new things, challenge themselves and learn resilience from failure. We don’t want them to obsess about grades, suffer anxiety or give up when a task is too hard. But how do any of these goals fit with the insanely competitive culture around college applications? Are…

Read More

You can’t spread your wings on a multiple choice test

One of the best parts of teaching is watching your students surpass what you’ve taught them. It’s like running next to your 4-year-old holding onto the bike, then finally letting go and watching them ride off, confidently, alone. We usually don’t experience this in a traditional classroom, when students are just listening, reading and repeating…

Read More

Competition is powerful, so use it with care

Nearly 30 years ago, Alfie Kohn made his case against competition. “It’s always unnecessary and inappropriate at school, at play and at home,” he wrote, citing studies that show children learn better when they work together. Kohn argued that competition makes children anxious and humiliates the losers, with no clear benefit to the winners. In…

Read More

Is giving up ever the right answer?

A parent recently spoke to me about concerns for her child, who is a student in my class. This student is struggling with the course content, despite completing all assignments, studying countless hours and seeking out lots of one-on-one help from me. Sounds like an ideal student, right? But the mom is deeply worried that…

Read More

The view from the other side

Last week, I wrote about my eagerness to read my students’ essays on how to improve American K-12 education. Forty essays in, and I’m exhausted but not disappointed. A few of their ideas are thinly researched or ill-conceived, but most put a lot of thought and evidence into their proposals. About half of my students…

Read More