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Recently there have been some exciting discussions throughout education on the impact of trauma on students. While there is a wealth of research documenting the impact of trauma on a child’s health and ability to learn, there is often a lack of clarity about instructional strategies for teachers. Fortunately, mindset intervention research has consistently targeted those students most in need, with exciting success.
Mindset in Action: Jennifer Maichin, from Mineola Middle School, NY, shares her experience, tips and classroom activities to introduce students to the growth mindset
I always wanted to teach. I dreamed of inspiring and empowering every student who entered my classroom. I imagined all students walking into school highly motivated and eager to learn. Reality of course was different. Mindset not only helped me manage my class effectively, but also reminded me why I wanted to become a teacher in the first place.
For the past 16 years, I have had the privilege of spending my school days teaching 11 through 14 year olds with learning challenges. These students are interesting and unique and, yes, they are challenging to teach. People sometimes ask me: “How do you do it? Do you feel successful? Do you feel like you actually get through to them? What motivates them? What is the best way to engage them and get them to want to learn? Why bother? They don't listen anyway...”
How, then, do I get through to them?
In November we wrote a post about the impact the mindset of a teacher can have about a student’s problem behavior. Related to this, Stanford researchers Jason Okonofua, David Paunesku and Gregory Walton recently published research demonstrating the power of teacher mindsets on student behavior.
Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is a data driven decision making process to ensure schools educate the whole child. PBIS is an instructional approach to behavior that teaches students the soft skills of achievement such as persistence, respect, responsibility or other non cognitive skills. This emphasis on teaching student behavior can be a tool for schools to ensure students understand the importance effort in their learning and to grow student agency.
The PBIS framework and growth mindset programs go hand in hand. PBIS is based on the recognition that kids come to school with a range of needs and skills beyond academic skills. This framework empowers schools to identify their values and priorities in order to teach students the behaviors and social-emotional skills that will lead to greater academic success. PBIS is not a curriculum - rather it is a process that helps schools organize and coordinate nonacademic supports to make sure they educate the whole child. This framework aims to provide supports to students ranging from school-wide to individualized supports, depending on student need. The success of this framework has greatly improved the climate and behavior at schools across the country, with now over 20,000 schools implementing.
One criticism of the PBIS framework is a perceived focus on controlling students and preventing misbehavior.
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.