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My co- teacher, Courtney Zaleski and I teach an inclusion 7th grade class. In order to set the stage for the year, we teach them that mistakes are not only OK, they are necessary:
Ask an adolescent how they feel about making mistakes and they will be very honest (sometimes brutally so). This year, on the first day of school, we asked our students to write down their thoughts on a post it note and compiled their responses on chart paper titled “making mistakes.” The students are then asked to stay and read their classmates’ comments. Words like “dumb,” “foolish,” “angry,” and “bad” were common responses.
No wonder so many kids don’t take academic risks. Who wants to feel like that?
As the students returned to their seats, we handed them each a personalized envelope. Inside, they found a pink eraser, a pencil with “Think Different” inscribed on it (“Think Different” is our class name), and a Maichin Welcome Back Letter. We asked them to open the envelope and read the letter silently.
We are currently recruiting Middle School partners who may be interested in participating in a Brainology® efficacy study in the 2017-18 or 2018-19 school years. Eligible schools will receive programs, resources & teacher training for free!
Located in the heart of Brooklyn, New York, Lenox Academy offers an academically accelerated program for middle school students in grades 6 through 8. Yet, while the overwhelming majority of our students exceed New York State standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics, a deeper analysis reveals a disturbing trend. We discovered that as the curriculum became more challenging over the course of middle school, many of our high-achieving students retreated from putting forth effort. The result was that academic performance actually declined over the three years for a large number of our students.
Reading about the work of Dr. Carol Dweck and her team at Mindset Works, we were able to more clearly understand the nature of our dilemma. Students who retreated from putting forth effort, we now realized, were exhibiting the characteristic fixed mindset. These were students who, for the better part of their young lives, had been praised for intelligence based on their performance in school and on NY State standardized exams. Acceptance into Lenox Academy brought more praise for intelligence—but when the accelerated curriculum began to present the kinds of challenges they had not previously encountered, they retreated.
I have a question for our readers - How many of you have a bad habit?
Exactly! We all have them, but here's something important to remember: We can both curb old habits and create new, better habits using our brain.
I want you to think about your "bad" habits as these strong neural pathways that your brain has built up. They're those old familiar paths that you know how to do so well (and then you can be really hard on yourself when you do them). But they are habits because they are strong responses you have developed in your brain - it's so easy to keep doing them! And so are your established "good" habits. I know you have those too.
This new year, how about we all promise to be kinder to ourselves about our bad habits and see them for what they are: proof that we have grown strong neural pathways in the past to develop habits, and inspiration that we CAN DO SO AGAIN.