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.

  • Feb 16 2014: Hi Dear Andre,I think teach students to believe in themselves and to be growth-minded isone of the most important goals for our teachers to do.

    At first I think being a teacher,I should try my best to design our every teaching lesson to focus on it:I do appreciate the constructivism .It means being a teacher we should know our students well ahead when we want to teach them something.when we teachers are teaching ,we are also one of students to keep learning,be students good model,so as long as you believe in yourself and you are growth-minded everyday,surely your students follow you more or less...

    It is really a good question ,especially for teachers to keep discussing in our whole teaching life.
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    Feb 24 2014: Hello Andre,
    I believe modeling a behavior is always one of the best teachers. Why would a young person who is told to push and stretch him/herself believe in someone who is NOT pushing and stretching him/herself? That doesn't make any sense.

    The people who have influenced me most throughout my 60+ years of the life adventure, are people who walk their talk....say what they do and do what they say...."live" what they say with integrity. We cannot give to someone, something that we do not have in our self. We cannot adequately teach others, something that we have not embraced in our own life.
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      Feb 24 2014: If I might underline an excellent point you make here, Colleen, it is *showing* how you are rather than *saying* who you are that effectively offers a model. When an adult just *says* he stretches himself or is open-minded or loving or original or whatever, that is not the example. It is *showing* himself to be those things through his actions that carries the message and serves as a model. The teacher, or parent has to "walk his talk." Consistently. Great point.
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  • Feb 15 2014: I think the phenomenon is related to short term learning without applications. We are becoming a nation of spectators, voyeurs, and couch potatoes. How are the lessons being taught connected to an action of some kind? Is there motivation to perform these actions? Experience breeds confidence.

    How do we convince kids that what we are teaching them is important? Seems like this establishment of personal relevance should be one of the first lessons and re-enforced throughout a course until the point is accepted. At some point in the maturity continuum we should be allowing them to ask the questions and find the answers, then evaluate the ability to teach themselves.

    Why do they look for the easy way out? Probably following adult patterns...convenience stores, fast food, instant gratification.

    Why are they not taking risks? Risk taking is not rewarded in schools. All too often kids that challenge themselves by trying something they are unsure they can master are penalized by the academic system with a low grade. Grades determine largely what colleges they can enter, how smart their parents think they are, and even their own self image. There is some redemption for risk taking students during standardized testing, but that does not have the same weight as a GPA. The competition to get into colleges is pretty fierce these days. Have you looked at the average GPA's? Are the kids that much different than our generation? What has changed? If you want risk takers, the academic system better be thinking EXTRA points relative to some norm rather than forcing gifted, talented, or superior student into a competition that half of them will end up doing more harm to their GPA than good.

    The importance of learning vs doing well while in school is an adult perspective, not a student perspective. Students understand the fear of what the academic system defines as failure and the associated penalties and often are motivationally paralyzed by it.
    • Feb 15 2014: Robert, so right you are about your thoughts of adult perspectives vs student perspectives of learning. The mistake that is made in the relationship between those two perspectives is when learning is the priority in isolation. Learning must be the priority, AND it must be the priority together. There really is something special about a teacher/student relationship where it is understood that we are learning together. Thanks for brining that point to light and thanks for your contribution to this conversation...
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    Feb 15 2014: You ask an important question. I was educated in one of the two or three biggest urban districts in the United States and taught secondary school in a smaller one with a large proportion of poor children. I think that, by and large, students today are much more confident that they can do challenging work than when I was in school and they are expected to do a great deal more.

    As an example, when I was in school, large numbers of students in urban districts were never expected to get as far as algebra, taking instead courses called things like business math. Now almost all are absolutely expected to take algebra by ninth grade.

    When I taught a class of eighth graders who were in the lowest performing tier at the school, I asked the first day for a show of hands of who thought college was probably in his plan. 28 of thirty students raised their hands. I said, okay, this is a college preparatory class then and we proceeded accordingly. No one ever said can't. All but two passed with C or better.
    • Feb 16 2014: love the story about 8th graders. were they the exception or was the entire 8th grade that way?
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        Feb 16 2014: Let me answer this a couple of ways.

        The other students I was teaching were in a higher "track" of whom more was expected. Some of these kids were more doubtful of being able to meet the expectations of them. Super-bright kids often lean toward perfectionism and performance anxiety for various reasons Accepting that not everything will come easily is something on which one has to work with kids for whom the early grades were always very easy.

        In terms of kids like the eighth graders I mentioned before, there was another section of them taught by a different teacher. At that time, and possibly in other places and times, good teachers, if they could, avoided classes like that one. As a result the other section was taught by a French teacher. I do not know how successful those students' were, but generally speaking it is much harder to succeed if the teacher either doesn't know the material herself or doesn't know the best range of pedagogy for teaching the subject to students for whom it may not be easy.
        • Feb 16 2014: Could not agree more on both points - personal experience on the 1st. I also think we do not push the better students fast enough.
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    Mar 7 2014: maybe to get students to challenge themselves you could steal a trick from Chaney below. She's saying what motivates her to work in school is the idea that that is her ticket to a more materially comfortable and happy life. Perhaps teachers could say that to many of their students: if you challenge yourself you'll get better grades, and if you get better grades you'll get a better life. Do teachers ever currently say this to their students, Andre? I can't recall one ever saying it during my high school career.
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    Mar 3 2014: Each human brain has a small primitive structure which scientists have dubbed 'the lizard brain.' This is a very old part of our physiology, and this structure has evolved to keep us safe, secure, and most importantly, alive. This small structure also represents, however, that little voice in our head that wants us to settle, take the easy path, and not risk a loss.

    How to overcome that voice has been the subject of many motivational workshops, books, entire lifetimes, so how to address it in a web comment?

    Perhaps the best way you can teach a student would be through example. Show them that you are unafraid to take risks, to learn, to admit you do not have the answers. Curiosity is the driving force behind human genius. Most importantly, be unafraid to fail. Failure can teach much more than any success. Failure has acquired quite a stigma in our culture, but it is only in this way we can learn and realize genius. The story of Edison's many 'failures' to invent the lightbulb could apply.

    The Leonardo museum's mission is founded on this idea. We strive to merge science, technology and art in experiences that inspire creativity and innovation in people of all ages and backgrounds. Our interactive exhibits and labs offer a 'safe' area for experimentation, trial and error, and ultimately

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    Mar 3 2014: I think a key is finding an increasing variety of ways and venues in which students can experience reciprocal choice and responsibility, initiative and accountability, or autonomy and relatedness in curricula that offer at least some learning events that aren't completely scripted. It is critically important for learners to be confronted with the consequences of their thought and action but in a non-judgmental way. Such confrontation typically is between reality and assumptions, and any disparities are an opportunity to learn. Students need not be threatened if the social context for such realization is modeled properly by those with some standing in the group.

    A context has to be created in which the obtaining of formative feedback is more important than momentarily being right or wrong, in which peers and authorities are rewarded for eliciting such feedback and for enthusiastically contributing to a climate of collaborative witnessing of momentary gaps or shortcomings. This breaks down the boundaries between teacher as mentor and teacher as classroom or event manager, and it softens the boundaries between teacher and learner.

    When learning becomes a social endeavor in a community of practice, even the time-honored distinctions between received knowers and active learners begin to blur if not to become utterly irrelevant. This pursuit of individual development through the practice of collective intelligence paves the way for life-long learning outside formal programs of instruction where group achievement is the rule rather than the exception.

    I believe communities that organize around online games can provide forums for collaborative teaching and learning that can complement the standardized education that to some extent also is necessary. See the TED Conversation at this link to understand why we see this connection, and please join us in the conversation: http://www.ted.com/conversations/22958/community_organization_and_imp.html
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    Feb 28 2014: Students learn to believe in themselves, develop confidence, and become "growth-minded" if their parents, teachers, and other responsible adults in their lives give them opportunities and activities to discover the full potential. Students learn by emulating the adults around them and doing activities that enhance their growth.
  • Feb 26 2014: Hi Brendan, yes Hunter's work is amazing. I first watched his Ted Talk last Spring and immediately shared his work with my staff. His results transcend the game. It is what he is teaching through the game that garners such astonishing results. If you look at the theory of motivation from one of the founding fathers, Abraham Maslow, Hunter's game is able to meet needs on every level of Maslow's hierarchy. That is why his students are so highly motivated, engaged, and willing to be risk takers. Even the more recent theorists like Dan Pink, whose theory is anchored in Maslow's theory, can be found deeply rooted in Hunter's game. Thanks for referencing this powerful resource. Be Great Today!
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        Mar 9 2014: The world needs more of your kind, Mr. Maloney! Your pieces are always interesting read. And your thoughts ...
  • Feb 23 2014: Chaney, what a great name! Thank you so much for your insightful and authentic response. I couldn't agree with you more in regard to the stimulus that elicits confidence. Not just for students. This is true of people in general. Confidence and how it's built isn't just a student thing. It's a people thing. I think a lot about Carol Dweck's work in regard to confidence and motivation. She talks about praise, and how what we praise is so much more critical then praise itself. She says that praising performance can actually be counterproductive. When we praise students for performance those who are at the top can actually become demotivated and less willing to take risks because they fear failure. Students are less likely to take risks and will choose to do something that is easier so that they can be successful rather than taking the risk for something new and stretching themselves for fear of failure. Whereas when students are praised for effort they are more motivated more likely to take risks because they were praised for trying and the final outcome wasn't (as) important. Anyway interesting research encourage you to check it out. Thank you for your contribution to this conversation...
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    Feb 21 2014: In order to get that response from students I, as a current student myself, think that you as the teacher or instructor have to confirm it in them. Let them know you believe in them, and this will make them believe themselves. It will help them to not doubt themselves and they will expand in mind and in actions.
    If it seems as though they don't want to push themselves farther, maybe that is a smaller percentage than you think. I believe upon observation and experience, that our actions and others expectations of us outweigh the gain of expanding sometimes. We live in an individualist society with an increasing value upon education. So it seems like there are many implications on what we choose to do with our education.
    In this case failure is the biggest block. They are afraid to fail and gain new experience and that prevents their mind-growth. So a solution, if there is one, would be to express your believe and confidence in them as the teacher. They will believe more in themselves if they feel like they have some backing.
    I am going through a similar experience right now. My life experiences lead me to be obtaining my high school diploma and AA by the time I graduate high school. I chose to expand because people encouraged me to do so, and it was my desire. Yet I was still really held back, then I took a speech class which led me to debate. My coaches confirmed their belief in my abilities and now I feel as though I have and continue to grow mind wise and otherwise. I have adopted and expanded new mindsets.
    To recap the teacher needs to confirm positively their views on the students abilities, this will lead them to believe in themselves and lead to expansion and growth-mindedness.
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  • Feb 16 2014: Greg, great question! I'm really please with the kind of feedback and thinking that this question has generated...

    I think you can do both. I remember when I had a pretty significant change in my professional/personal life. It was a point when I became comfortable being uncomfortable. That state of being was really critical for me, professionally, I believe because it enabled me to be ok in stressful situations like dealing with upset parents, dealing with staff conflicts, meeting deadlines, etc. I was able to anticipate uncomfortable situations, knew what to expect, and handle them with fidelity. Really, coming to that realization gave me confidence in those situations.

    Maybe it was being exposed to those kinds of experiences that helped be get to the point where I was comfortable being uncomfortable. Whatever the case, I think that is similar to what you are asking. I guess what I'm saying is to be confident to take risks doesn't necessarily mean you are 100% confident, just that you are WILLING to take the risk knowing there is a risk involved.

    The kind of risks I'm talking about are mostly in the classroom/school related and/or related to choices students may make in situations where there is the opportunity for them to grow or learn. I see a lot or non-risk taking just in terms of being willing to walk up to the "starting line" so to speak. It's almost like kids are so afraid to make a mistake or to fail that they would rather not try at all than risk the mistake.

    If you feel like it, please reply back. If not, that is ok too. Either way, thanks for your contribution to this conversation...
  • Feb 16 2014: Anthony, I see your point via the sports example. For some reason it makes me think of the old saying, "No risk, no reward." I'm a big Washington Huskies fan and love how (former) head coach Steve Sarkesian is the kind of guy that goes for it on 4th down, and goes for the win when the opportunity arises. I think that kind of mentality that helped bring a program that was in the cellar to a program that has had several winning seasons and have been to bowl games the last 3 years in a row.

    Sports analogies are a great way to makes sense of things for me, LOL. Having been a head coach at the HS level I see a lot of parallels in leadership and in life through sports.

    You mentioned parents and the system being contributing factors to students not being risk takers. Since these are factors that are beyond our control, what would be your approach to impacting this issue?

    Thanks for your contribution to this conversation...
  • Feb 16 2014: Edulover, what you speak of has much to do with the relationship side of education. How powerful the relationship is in the learning process for a teacher and student. Not only for motivational sake, but for self-esteem! As the teacher you are the coach, you are the advocate, you are the mentor!

    I also appreciate you saying that WE are students, the educators...we are learners for life. I spend a lot of time researching and practicing theory of motivation, with students and staff. The MOST critical element of motivating? Living it. I can't just practice motivational theory for the theory's sake, I have to actually believe it, AND I actually have to believe in my people, otherwise I'M not very believable.

    Thanks for your words, and your contribution to this conversation...
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    Feb 16 2014: Thank you for opening this topic for discussion, Mr. Wicks!

    Students will learn to believe in themselves if they:
    - are given opportunities to discover their passions in life
    - have mentors who guide them to chose right from wrong and who encourage them to push their limits
    - have a families and communities that provide a solid ground to stand on and strong wings to fly

    What if every school has teachers like Erin Gruwell and the late Jaime Escalante?

    What if every city in the world has a Silicon Valley?

    What if there are ten Dean Kamens in every country? - Dean Kamen is an inventor, entrepreneur, and tireless advocate for science and technology. His passion and determination to help young people discover the excitement and rewards of science and technology are the cornerstones of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). http://www.usfirst.org/aboutus/vision
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    Feb 15 2014: Andre, I believe that elementry and middle school instructors can contribute to this process. As Pat mentioned I firmly believe in application and demonstrtion to be the real truth in learning. I have been present when instructors tell students they are wrong. The look on their face saddens me. I tell them that they are not wrong but have eleminated one possibility. Failure is a path to success if properly addressed. If told enough that they have failed they will begin to believe they are failures ... if we go through the process together we can find where the initial error occured.

    You may have noticed I called these people instructors ... not teachers.

    The education system is under a lot of pressure from parents, state, and federal government. Some schools have went to flipped classrooms as a solution to allow the teachers to evaluate the daily learning process. This allows more interaction, demonstration / performance, and personal time to assist others. This is particularly important as there is little time available when required to teach the test in preperation for high stakes testing that we all live and die by.

    School has become a smart or one of the others fight. Lets take grades out of the equation. The are either competent or non-competent in a task ... if competent go to the next assignment ... if not redo the exercise until you are or recieve assistance to overcome the problems. This allows them to work at their own pace without the Sally VS Joe war. There is no failure. Each module / exercise / etc .. is a success. This builds confidence and a desire to succeed. Each student has a different rate they learn at .. accept it .. use it to your advantage.

    One of the things we have not paid much attention to is vocabulary. I think this is a major key to learning. We should return to using this a a tool.

    These are general, not specific ... just thoughts and observations.

    Be well. Bob.
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      Feb 15 2014: "One of the things we have not paid much attention to is vocabulary."

      Exactly, as Socrates said: The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.

      This has more to do with "learning disabilities" or "ADD" or than any other pyschobabble explaining why students cannot learn.

      And more importantly is the only real stubbling block to application.

      I had a friend who was a painter who took 30 minutes to paint a french door. He sat down and got all the terms of a french door defined, a stile, a rail, a mullion, a jamb, etc. After did this he was able to paint the door in 15 minutes. True story.

      Why? A definition of terms allows you to understand something that before was a vaguery.
    • Feb 15 2014: Bob, first, I always appreciate your thoughtful feedback. I believe your points on how we evaluate learning or spot on. Your observation of the role the teacher plays in BUILDING courageous young people is so true. Thank you for your contribution to this conversation...
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        Feb 16 2014: Andre, Last summer I proposed that we place posters on the walls of the elementry school and rotate them around such a a giant microscope with arrows pointing to all of the parts ... 6th graders taking a science experiment to the lower kids classrooms and demonstrating the experiment .. kids listen to other kids in great detail ... current event posters with the right answer under the flap .... science and math terms ... My thought is that if I expose them everyday to the terms, parts, events, etc .. that some of it will stick. If I taught the 6th grade and my students already knew all of the parts of the microscope and their operation I would be about a week ahead and could focus on other things. Use pictures of swings, merry go rounds, basketball hoops, etc that they see everyday as sample of circles, angles, etc ... if they can associate it then they may better understand the terms and their functions.

        Just some off the wall thoughts. Be well. Bob.
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      Feb 16 2014: Bob,
      Update... Not teachers, not instructors.... Now they are facilitators.
  • Mar 10 2014: Andre,

    I did this with my children - not sure how it translates to middle school environment.

    1. Start with games, no penalties or judgement, say creative writing with comments but no grades, or plays
    2. Next simple competitions, maybe good, better, very good with comments
    3. actual competitions, actual grades with comments on how to improve - for those struggling, work with them to improve.

    Think chess for example.
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    Feb 28 2014: andre, when you talk about students taking on risks, do you mean academic risks, or some other kind of risk? What exactly is an academic risk?
  • Feb 22 2014: I agree with you. Teachers plays an imortant role in students life
  • Feb 20 2014: Brendan, thank you for your thoughtful and humorous response to my non-responsiveness. I have suffered a back injury and am going continue to converse, but sparingly. Please do not take offense if I am not as quick to reply as I was when this conversation first began. Thank you for your contribution to this conversation...
  • Feb 19 2014: Congratulations. You have discovered a fundamental constant in human nature. Most people of any age do NOT want to push and stretch themselves. They want to follow the monkey pack and be safe. This trait is innate. It is natural. It must be opposed.
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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.
  • Feb 17 2014: Jacob, love those ideas. It reminds me of a really good book I read by Jeffrey Marx, A Season of Life, where he talks about having a cause that is beyond yourself. That tends to be when people are the most motivated, when what it is they are doing is benefitting not only themselves but the lives of others too. Thanks so much for your contribution to this conversation...
  • Feb 16 2014: I think children at a young age should be involved in community projects, something hands on that makes a positive impact on their community. A local high school built a house for habitat for humanity on school grounds and then the house was moved to the property where we are finishing it up(outstanding stuff and a far better use of time than what i was doing in high school). Or maybe a community garden on school grounds that goes to local homeless shelters. Anything that can make a young child feel empowered will motivate them to make full use of the opportunity to learn and grow as they get older.
  • Feb 16 2014: Personally I think this attitude of the children reflects parenting and the school system of our current society. We are taught as we grow up that taking risks is dangerous and we should take the "sure" road instead. When I say we I do want to state the 80/20 rule here, because there are the 20% who are taught the complete opposite. We want our children to save money and get good paying secure jobs when they get older, instead of wanting them to venture out and take risks to try to become millionaires.

    An example of how we teach our kids this can be intertwined with sports. Let's say there is 10 seconds left on the clock and our team is down by 2, well more than 80% of the time the coach draws up a play for the tie, "the safe way". Well why not go for the win, why not tell these kids it's all or nothing in this game? Who wants to play 5 more minutes of overtime? I think it's important to change the way we think as a society and start teaching our kids to go for the gold.
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    Feb 16 2014: is there any possibility these are contradictory values? Because when you challenge yourself, you really aren't 100% confident, that is what makes it a challenge, that's what makes it a risk. So when you say how can we give students both confidence and encourage them to take risks, I'm questioning whether you can do both?

    What risks do you want them to take?
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    Feb 16 2014: One answer is that the teachers themselves have "to believe in themselves and to be growth-minded" - we can only teach what we have got for ourselves.
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    Feb 16 2014: Andre,
    You can't. Your state like most states have a state exam to measure scholastic progress. These exams are very important. Funding is tied to school performance. Do well, and it's a new media center... your kids turn up on the bottom and you maybe moving to.... California.
    So John and Mary have to take these tests and they know how important these test are, If they fail to do well, their educational facilitators will be unhappy, so the only thing they need to learn are the state tests. All else is not important. And the education facilitators are passing out worksheets that only need to be completed, accuracy is not as important as the information needed to do well on the state test.
    Of course, your state education boss will publically say that these tests are only for the use of the state to see the metrics of the state curricula. Each student has an overall education program to insure his success.
    But ask the kids. Ask one who is not afraid of you and ask how important the state exam is. Ask if he would prefer an 'A' his regular English test or get the best score on the state test.
  • Feb 16 2014: Think it takes a village to support the student to take risks - they have to learn to hate to fail but not be afraid to try - a very tough balance. The support must come from the teachers, the entire system, the parents.

    The school district I am in has open enrollment so students can request to be put into honors or ap courses.
    • Feb 16 2014: Wayne, absolutely. A village to support the child is not so cliche´. I am currently doing, what I believe to be important work, involving the community I serve as an assistant principal by harnessing the resources in the community to support students and families. Thanks for acknowledging that and thank you for your contribution to the conversation...
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    Feb 16 2014: .
    “Tell the students that the brain is the most powerful computer in the world today.
    Never cancel your assignment to make you succeed and the brain will most probably find the answer to it.
    • Feb 16 2014: W. Ying, positive messaging to students is paramount in building confidence in students...in people in general. Not quite sure where you were going with the second sentence you wrote, but thank you for your contribution to the conversation...
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        Feb 28 2014: .
        My second sentence means: "Dream becomes true" if one persist on dreaming it.
  • Feb 15 2014: Keith, thanks for your contribution to the conversation. I would agree with you that there is, inherently, a top-down order to the educational system. That will always be part of hierarchal systems. Even the most autonomous of systems (i.e. Google, Apple) there's a top-down order -AND- a purposeful and intentional appreciation for employee autonomy. In fact, companies like these depend on it!

    I don't know if I can agree or disagree with your point on separating learners (geographically) because I'm not sure what you mean. Perhaps you can clarify? When it comes to young learners, say up through high school even, these learners often can't/won't choose learning all on their own. To separate them based off their own initial desire to be a learner may be a mistake. As educators I believe we have a responsibility to help these young learners to appreciate learning. That takes time and relationship. I don't believe we should deny our youth that opportunity. If I misunderstood your point, feel free to let me know. Thanks again.
  • Feb 15 2014: I have not started my formal analysis of the education system but what I have observed is they still has a "do as I say, not as I do" system and there lies most of the problems. Teachers can not teach what they do not know and the a real need in schools is repetitious principles taught by example and attraction not by some form of force.
    They also need to be able to separate students who want to learn from the others and I mean geographically with the cost of the separate school born my the parents of those who choose a different path. The parents should also get required counseling.
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    Feb 15 2014: Do student definitions of "growth" match those of who teach them?

    If there is a mismatch, then student potential gets off on the wrong footing right from the start. Students do not grow in standard, identikit ways.

    I think this is because potentiality lies in respect for student individuality, and the varying ways in how they learn. A teacher spouting standard definitions of growth (especially in huge class sizes, and if it is delivered autocratically 'government down' rather than organically 'student up') will always end up in disinterested students who see no point in pushing themselves into a life effectively designed for them.

    The epidemic lies not with disinterested students, but with the way teachers are forced to teach them.

    This problem needs to be addressed at the very fundamental level, where government could just stop meddling destructively in children's lives and life chances, and instead develop a great deal more respect and trust for the teaching profession and the relationship between student and teacher. In countries where teaching ranks highly in importance, students develop a far more robust and clearly defined sense of self.

    It is from that springboard, that real growth happens.
    • Feb 15 2014: Allen, in the dual effort to ensure each classroom has a teacher who is highly qualified and having a system that also can effectively help teacher grow in their capacity to deliver effective instruction there certain can be a sense that teacher autonomy is stifled. I don't believe this had to be the case though. I believe that school leadership can play a big role in ensuring effective instruction and allowing space for teachers to be themselves in the classroom. What you elude to here is really the same question I ask of students but of teachers. What makes a risk a risk? It comes down to how we are measured. That is the sad truth. What we are calling a risk, for a student OR a teacher, shouldn't be considered a risk at all. It should just be the way it is. Thanks for your contribution to this conversation...
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    Feb 15 2014: As Robert said it comes down to application.

    I suppose that as technology increases leasure time increases and it is possible to be productive without as much effort? From computer controlled equippment to learning it is easier. But I'm not sure it results in application?

    What I think has had an effect is the introduction of psychobabble into school. From the seemingly harmless practice of not keeping score in sporting events and building self esteem to the insidous practice of drugging children I can attest to, I must of been one of the 1st?

    This from wikipedia:

    Despite twenty two international drug regulatory warnings on psychiatric drugs citing effects of mania, hostility, violence and even homicidal ideation, and dozens of high profile school shootings/killings tied to psychiatric drug use, there has yet to be a federal investigation in the United States on the link between psychiatric drugs and acts of violence. At least 31 school shootings and/or school-related acts of violence have been committed by those taking or withdrawing from psychiatric drugs resulting in 162 wounded and 72 killed (in other school shootings, information about their drug use was never made public—neither confirming or refuting if they were under the influence of prescribed drugs). The most important fact about this list, is that these are only cases where the information about their psychiatric drug use was made public. [15]
    However, there is no direct causal relationship that has been proven between school shootings and psychiatric drugs. According to Al Knight, “what has been said is that the drugs may have either masked a deeper problem or reacted with other factors to produce resulting violence.” In short, the school shootings have not been found to be as a direct result of these drugs and the role they may have played if involved is currently unknown.[16]
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    • Feb 15 2014: Talk to me a little more about "man education" and "man information." What exactly do you mean by that?