In the responses to several of my previous posts, many comments focused on the debate of whether children need rules, or whether children are better off with free choice and have the ability to make correct decisions when free to do so. Summerhill by A.S. Neill is offered as a shining example of that school of thought. In a 1999 New York Times article "Summerhill Revisited," Alan Riding posited why the results of Summerhill were not as glowing as A.S. Neill described in his landmark book.
Anyone who has worked with young people knows the student I am thinking of right now. When greeted, he (or she) keeps his eyes on the floor while mumbling a response. He may doodle constantly, or maybe he takes every free moment to mindlessly scroll through messages on his phone. He is the connection that feels impossible to make. Nothing seems to excite him, and when he turns in work, it is usually something partially completed with little thought.
The best way to reduce bullying is not with a one-time assembly or a poster campaign, but with homegrown, data-driven, sustained efforts by a caring, committed staff -- a model I call the six R's, a blueprint for effective bullying prevention. I've shared this model with hundreds of educators worldwide, and on U.S. Army bases. Each "R" is crucial in creating what our students deserve -- a safe, caring learning environment that breeds acceptance and respect.
In the 1960s, there was an experiment with marshmallows. Children at the nursery school on Stanford’s campus were placed at a table and had the option of having one marshmallow now -- or getting two marshmallows if they waited 15 minutes while the researcher left the room. Children used many tactics to distract themselves while waiting, like kicking the floor, pulling their braids, and covering their eyes. Only about 30 percent of the children could hold out long enough to get the reward. But more importantly, it was found that those who could resist the marshmallows as preschoolers performed better in school later in life. Researchers found that self-regulation was a better predictor to success than IQ.
Everyone is abuzz about a new short film called The Science of Character, which explores the research behind character development and encourages us to focus on our character strengths for greater personal and community well-being. I've featured a trailer for the film below, and then chosen one video for each of the seven highly predictive character strengths distilled by KIPP schools, in partnership with grit researcher Angela Duckworth, and psychologists Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson (authors of the groundbreaking book Character Strengths and Virtues). I hope these videos will inspire you to celebrate #CharacterDay on March 20th, and to think about the importance of character every day!
Disruptive behavior continues to be one of the most challenging issues that schools face today. Even one seriously incompliant student can threaten teaching and learning for the rest of the class. And though exceedingly rare given the large number of schools throughout our country, incidents of deadly violence shake our confidence in school safety.
In the 1990s, amidst similar circumstances and fears, schools adopted "get tough" philosophies of discipline: increased suspensions, expulsions, school arrests and zero tolerance. By cracking down on all transgressions, school leaders hoped to send a message to students that misbehaviors would not be tolerated, and also make classrooms safer for learners that remained.
In its comprehensive case study report on socially inclusive schools, Special Olympics'
Project UNIFY identified the common factors across schools that had created a bridge from social inclusion programs to a genuinely positive school climate. The case study findings are here, and I'm also going to share with you key lessons learned that reflect my own work in fostering inclusive settings.
When collaboration goes wrong, it can be toxic for learning and classroom culture. We are all familiar with the scene: a group of students that is supposed to be completing a collaborative project has splintered off into dysfunctional factions. Maybe it's one student who has sullenly separated her- or himself from the rest of the group, or maybe the group has become two non-communicative teams with separate visions. Sometimes these conflicts lead to resentments that have the potential for long-term damage to the classroom community.
In the mid-1950s, humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow created a theory of basic, psychological and self-fulfillment needs that motivate individuals to move consciously or subconsciously through levels or tiers based on our inner and outer satisfaction of those met or unmet needs. As a parent and educator, I find this theory eternally relevant for students and adults, especially in our classrooms. After studying it over the past couple of years, my graduate and undergraduate students have decided that every classroom should display a wall-sized diagram of the pyramid, as students and teachers alike place pins and post-its on the varying tiers based on their own feelings, behaviors and needs. What do actual brain-compatible strategies look like on this pyramid?
Worried about the shrinking presence of empathy in our schools? I know how you feel.
With classrooms operating more like grade factories, it's hard to make the case for school-driven empathy. Faced with an endless cycle of memorize, drill, spit back and test, teachers have become the wardens of a new educational reality that pits the head against the heart. Even if educators manage to skate past the dizzying array of standards and value-added evaluations, they must still contend with this fundamental divide: academic rigor, with its unflinching emphasis on measurable success, seems strangely at odds with emotional intelligence, a soufflé of moods and feelings. Which leaves many to wonder -- can empathy feel its way back into the classroom?