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Andre Wicks

Middle School Assistant Principal, Spokane Public Schools

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How do you teach students to believe in themselves and to be growth-minded?

I've noticed that students of all ages can be very unsure of themselves and what they can accomplish. They are at times very reluctant to take risks, to take on challenge, and all too accepting of the easy way out. Save a small percentage of students who will do the opposite of what I just described, do the vast majority of students seem like they are that interested in pushing and stretching themselves?

Is this an epidemic of this day and age? Am I forgetting how I, and the youth that grew up with me, was in my adolescence or is this a real problem? Help me find answers to this question. Share with me your thoughts and experiences as you've perhaps taught young people to believe they are capable of much more than they thought possible.

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    Feb 18 2014: andre, I wonder if teachers could be a little more confrontational and not always give kids an easy out in discussions. Here is a video where Henry Rollins is, superficially, kind of hard on a kid interviewing him. If you read the comments, many people think he was bullying the kid. I think he was more trying to challenge him, giving him difficult answers, not being the typical cooperative interview subject, asking him difficult questions about himself, not accepting the things the kid said, pushing him to think more about his life and communicate his thoughts: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-xMkHgan0Y

    There are some things he asks the kid that I never heard any teacher ask me in school. For example, he asks about the kid's clothing and image choices, and also about the group he hangs with. These are topics that interest kids, I wonder if a teacher might do well to ask kids about these subjects?

    I wonder if teachers could set up difficult practice situations in class and see how the kids handle them? For instance, they could say to kids here's a situation you've bought a gallon of milk, but when you get it home it's sour. You want to return it and get your money back. But when you go to the grocery the grocer is reluctant to give your money back, he's saying it's not my fault, it's the milk company, etc., etc. What are you going to say to the grocer? The kids could playact that situation and see how it unfolds. Or they're on the street, someone asks for money, they say no, and the person keeps harassing them for money. How are the kids going to handle that situation? But if you do this, are you going to get a bunch of complaints from parents?
    • Feb 24 2014: Hi Dear greg,do you mean teachers should have sharp mouth but toufu heart(kind heart)?
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        Feb 24 2014: well, you should always have kind heart, no? But there might be a time and place for sharp mouth?

        But really, edulover, I was more thinking of putting children into a situation where they are acting, it is a pretend situation that is a difficult situation. For example, one child could pretend to be the customer of a grocery store, and one child could pretend to be the grocer. The child pretending to be the customer has bought some meat, and when they get it home, they discover it is spoiled. The child pretending to be the customer takes it back to the child pretending to be the grocer and asks for her money back, but the child pretending to be the grocer refuses to give it back, he says it is the customer's fault the meat is spoiled, the customer did not refrigerate it properly. What will the customer do? Will they argue? What will they say? Will they accept the grocer's decision, in which case they have to throw the meat away, and they have gotten no value for their money? In this situation, one child could pretend to be the grocer and one could pretend to be the customer and they could play out the situation, and we will see what happens? The rest of the class could watch and comment. Could it work, would it be a stimulating exercise for the class?
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        Feb 24 2014: here is the video I shared with andre, basically it is a teenage boy interviewing a rock singer, some would say the rock singer is rough with him but I would say he is just trying to challenge him to think more? http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMzY4Njg1ODM2.html If you can't see it, edulover, I'll look for it elsewhere.
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        Feb 24 2014: maybe this is the title of the video, can you tell me what it says in English?: 视频: Black Flag 80年代采访
        • Feb 26 2014: :)视频: Black Flag 80年代采访 in english is'video:Black Flag an interview from 80s.
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      Feb 25 2014: I think your initial comment is correct. As a student If you want me to succeed, grow, and learn, be more confrontational. Although not necessarily is a rude way. If teachers were more straight forward about what they want and don't let students slide by, then it puts the student into a position where they can learn grow and develop opinions. I hope I can keep up this mindset when I teach. I think many teachers probably worry more about self image, which is totally understandable, but if they want certain results I don't think they should give in or be submissive.
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        Feb 25 2014: do you ever find yourself in confrontations anywhere in life, Chaney? What are the situations? How did they play out, what was said, what was concluded? It does seem like sometimes in life you're going to have some friction, aren't you? So you may as well get ready for it?
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          Feb 26 2014: My confrontations aren't usually in an academic setting, neither are they about academics. But yes there are confrontations everywhere in life not necessarily an argument. I might have used the wrong word, my connotative definition is different than the denotative. I apologize for the confusion.
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          Feb 27 2014: I think what teachers do is variable. There is a lot of pressure in some settings to give high grades to everyone and to avoid saying anything that could possibly be discouraging. When you read that teachers need to hold students to higher standards, it is because many teachers could improve in that area.

          But I don't think you can lay the blame on early teachers for the behavior of adults who were once their students. I have never, in my memory, seen a student indignant or furious that his assumptions or prejudices are being challenged, but one definitely sees this frequently in adults. Teachers are only one influence on what adults become or make themselves into.
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          Feb 27 2014: There are a few forces that can come into play. One is that teachers are extremely busy and can avoid conflicts with parents if they give kids high grades. Another is that in some buildings students' grades are taken as a measure of teaching success. This is one reason standardized tests have become more popular, I think, to get a second measure of what students understand and are able to do.

          Another big factor is that teachers know encouragement is extremely important for learning and a factor in future efficacy. The bitterness so many people show even in adulthood if they did not feel successful in school is marked. So some teachers will err on the side of calling things brilliant that are not.
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          Feb 27 2014: No, every teacher's situation is different, some busier than others, some more reluctant to tangle with parents than others. I responded only to your earlier statement that made it appear that you thought teachers were uniformly doing precisely what Chaney said they should.
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          Feb 28 2014: Teachers have hugely different demands upon them based on what they teach, who they teach, where they teach, how the administrator runs the building, how many separate courses they teach simultaneously, over how long a period they teach essentially the same course, how often the curriculum switches, what the training and meeting requirements are, and so forth.
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        Feb 26 2014: What do you mean by confrontational?
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          Feb 26 2014: What I should have said is that teachers should initiate conversation on the topics at hand with the student. We are here to learn, as a teacher I think you should define your goals and what is expected of them clearly. Let them know that passing the class is up to them. They have the tools therefore they should use them and explain that you believe that they can succeed.
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          Feb 27 2014: i've not been in a situation where I detected that there was pressure on a teacher to give high grades. Can you say more about the situations where you are aware of this happening?
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          Feb 27 2014: I think that teachers should clearly define goals and expectations, while being supportive and encouraging.If a student feels that they have others on their "team" they develop more confidence which enables them to become more growth minded and take more risks. Though I can't say this works %100 of the time, since every person is different, I think that as a whole this method would be successfull.
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          Feb 27 2014: so you say teachers are extremely busy and can avoid conflicts with parents if they give high grades? Are you saying that all teachers are equally busy and some are giving high grades to avoid conflicts with parents, but other equally busy teachers give more honest grades and accept conflict with parents?
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          Feb 28 2014: just cause i'd like to understand, f, are you saying some teachers are busier than others because of responsibilities outside their job, or because of responsibilities associated with their job? But the latter wouldn't make much sense, would it, presumably each teacher would have about the same amount of responsibility associated with their job?
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          Feb 28 2014: so, just to be clear, at a high school two different full-time teachers could have really different levels of busyness?
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        Feb 26 2014: I understand. You are right that "confrontational" carries different connotations depending on the context.

        I agree that people need to learn to deal with genuine feedback, tactfully presented.

        It is not important only within a school setting but throughout life to be able to accept constructive response and questioning of assumptions. If people don't come to understand and expect that during their schooling but are told throughout their schooling or among their friends that everything they do is great even when there is lots of room for growth, they cut themselves off from the opportunity truly to become excellent.

        One sees this every day, people who take as an affront any questioning of their assumptions, logic, or conclusions, who expect accolades for the totally ordinary..

        I appreciate your position and have found as a teacher in secondary and higher ed that getting students used to authentic feedback presented tactfully has great payoff for their learning and future accomplishment.
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          Feb 27 2014: does it seem to you, F, that teachers are already doing what you say, giving constructive response and questioning of assumptions? And yet Andre, who started this conversation, is saying that it's not pushing the kids to take greater risks and be growth-minded? So is something more needed?
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        Feb 28 2014: chaney, what do you think constitutes a "risk" when it comes to academics, or study? Do you think you challenge yourself when it comes to academics? But you say your teachers haven't been confrontational so far, right? So what has caused you to challenge yourself scholastically?
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          Feb 28 2014: To me "risk" in an academic setting means taking on tasks or topics that are maybe outside of you abilities and comfort zone.

          I believe that I do challenge myself with academics. I am a senior in high school who is attending college full time and will have her AA when she graduates. I take classes outside of my comfort level (spanish, public speaking etc.) and they have helped me grow.

          I did not say that I had never had confrontations with teachers I said the most of mine don't revolve around academia. In fact I have actually had many confrontations (denotative definition) with instructors through out my school career, although not so much in recent years.

          What challenged me and gave me motivation isn't exactly the norm. Yes, in recent years I have had instructors who have been encouraging and pushed me to do better. However for the first 6-7 years of school I had quite the opposite. I had a very disruptive behavioral problem, came from an unstable home environment and was endlessly getting kicked out of school. Most adults had very low expectations for me. I also had a bit of an authority problem, I was put into foster care at age 11 and after some struggle decided to exert an extreme amount of control over my anger issues and change. Instructors started to have direct conversations with me about academics and my priorities. My motivation is the desire to succeed and break the cycle. So when you ask me why I challenged myself scholastically I hope this is sufficient.

          I look at things now and see how much I have accomplished because of my background and because of the few who believed in me, and I became more growth minded.
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        Mar 1 2014: when you take a class outside your comfort level, can you pinpoint what is going on inside you? You see the class, part of you feels like you would like to learn what it offers but another part feels nervous about what you would have to do in the class? So why is it, Chaney, that you go with the part of you that wants to learn? And why would another person not take the class outside their comfort level?

        Perhaps you should keep a journal and eventually write a book about your life?
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          Mar 2 2014: When I take a class outside of my comfort level I'm not necessarily worried about the topic but the amount of interactions I have to have with the people combined with the topic. I have a strong desire to succeed and break the cycle. I push myself very hard so I can live a comfortable and happy life, school is my ticket. Some people may not have the support pr the internal drive to take classes that are outside their comfort zone, and that's where the outside forces have the chance to intervene, it can take just one teacher to offer their support and belief to change the student for the better.

          I have thought about what you mentioned, but right now isn't the time fpr me to fpcus on writing a book, but to focus on finishing my education and establishing my caree as an art and or speech communications teacher.
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        Mar 3 2014: just for clarity, when you say the amount of interactions you have to have with the people, are the people the teacher of the course, or the other students, or......?

        Well, maybe keep a journal so when you do write a book you can refer back to it to help you in the writing?
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          Mar 3 2014: Interactions with students, for the most part this is relevant in high school. I get along better with adults more than people in my age group.

          The journaling is a good odea and I will have to pursue it further.
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        Mar 7 2014: so just to be clear, Chaney, you're saying that if you were considering taking Spanish and it was outside your comfort zone, the reason it was outside your comfort zone is because of interactions with other students? What would you be afraid of, that they might make fun of you if you didn't get an oral answer right?

        Well, so far, your life story seems to be very positive. Maybe a book would inspire others.
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          Mar 7 2014: I am taking Spanish and its outside of my comfort zone, one of the reasons is that I am uncomfortable with interpersonal communication with those who are closer to me in age. This class happens to be composed of Running Start students, like me, and people in their early twenties. I take all of my classes at the college. I feel like the kids my age and in high school still remember how awful I was when I was younger, so that is one reason I feel awkward around those in m peer age group. I'm also just used to communicating with adults, I spent more time with them rather than those my age. Also I recognize, despite my maturity, I am a teenager and I am still probably in my socially awkward phase. :)

          I thought I would like to do a book. I also like the idea of doing motivational speeches. I did one once 3-4 years ago where I talked about my story and foster care to individuals who were being trained to become CASA social workers.
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        Mar 7 2014: well, even if they did remember, so what?

        I'm wondering, Chaney, if teachers could motivate students to challenge themselves by pointing out that if they challenge themselves they will get better grades, and if they get better grades they will have a better chance of a comfortable, materially comfortable, happy life. Sort of take the thing that motivates you and use it to motivate everybody. I can't remember any teacher ever saying anything like that in any class I was in in high school, but maybe it would have helped the kids who weren't doing that well (I happened to be a great student in high school, so I already had enough motivation.)

        How'd the speech go over to the CASA trainees? Yeah, if you want to do motivational speeches, there should be plenty of opportunities. Again, maybe in your speech you could point out what motivates you, which is achieving a more materially comfortable and happy life.
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          Mar 7 2014: It makes me uncomfortable, I don't like to be viewed as the kid I was then.

          I think your exactly right. Students talk to each other and we usually come to a consensus about this general topic. We want our teachers to be up-front and direct. I view it as a respect thing, I don't know if that's true for everybody though. I respect a teacher and am more likely to listen and take them seriously if they are up-front and do the same.

          The CASA trainee speech did real well. I had someone approach me after and say that maybe I should pursue a career or giving speeches further. My internal reaction was somewhat to the effect of "yeah right!" But look at me now, I do competitive speaking and debate. In competition I got to promote the cause of preparing foster youth for independent living. If you like I could send you the speech manuscript. I like to share it.
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        Mar 8 2014: well, as long as you've changed for the better, it seems like those people are wrong to keep you chained in their mind to who you were in the past.

        Sorry, I just want to be clear, when you say "Students talk to each other and we usually come to a consensus about this general topic," you mean that students talk and come to agree that it's good to get good grades so they can succeed in life materially. But I wonder why I've never heard a teacher say that to any class I was in, say to the class "if you work hard and get good grades, you'll end up with a materially more comfortable life." I wouldn't think it's a respect problem, I always felt like my teachers respected the students in the classes they were teaching. I always felt like my teachers were upfront to the degree they could be, where they wouldn't step on anyone's toes. I wonder if it would step on someone's toes for a teacher to tell a class "work hard and take risks, you'll get better grades and eventually wind up with a more comfortable life materially." But I can't think whose toes it would step on.

        Yeah, send me the speech if you like. You can send it to my email address, milkcowsmasai@yahoo.com. My address is 309 Geneva St., Apt. A/ Glendale, California/ 91206-3723. My fax is (818) 247-6781, but that could be a bit shaky, we don't get that many faxes.
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          Mar 8 2014: We come to a consensus on that and that we wish our teachers were more up front. By respect I mean, though this may seem like a status type issue, a teacher should speak to us as they would anyone else (as long as it is appropriate student-teacher conversation of course). Generally speaking we can tell a lot about our teachers, we can tell when they dislike us or don't take us seriously. Just as they can do the same, so in my opinion we learn better when we respect our teachers. I can't say for sure though because I have no control over people or over other variables if this is true all the time. We talk about how we wish our teachers weren't pushovers or that they would be more direct.

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