Is there anything more painful than watching your child suffer? But when we shield our kids from the lumps Life dishes out, we rob them of the critical growing-up experiences that will make them into strong, brave, confident adults later.
I make my living working with kids, and it’s my impression that most of them have little clue as to what they want to do with their lives, and that they find the very question terrifying.
When I was a kid math was not my forte, and in eighth grade I was struggling and failing at algebra. So my mom went to the local bookstore and bought me a review book (picture the mid-1970’s version of Algebra for Dummies).
If I ever write my memoirs, I’ll devote one chapter to each of the books that changed my life, by authors including Dan Ariely, Judith Rich Harris, Steven Pinker, Martin Seligman, Shirley Glass, John and Julie Gottman and Haim Ginott.
I’ve always been a reader and a learner, and it’s no coincidence that I wound up in the education field. I believe in the power of knowledge to solve problems and make life comprehensible and happier.
I love this time of the year; time to think about a fresh start and renewed goals. For the past two years I’ve curated collections of favorite TED talks, which you can view here:
A fifth grade student was amazed that I knew every word on the American Heritage Dictionary’s Top 100 Words Every Middle Schooler Should Know list. She only recognized five.
I assured her that soon she would also know these words, because we were about to begin learning them now.The authors explain why knowing these words is so important:
So asks the cover article of the fall edition of American Scholar magazine, entitled Temptation, Inc. It’s a long, wide-ranging, provocative piece that explores the many ways in which consumer technology is getting better and better at exploiting our natural impulsiveness and cravings for immediate rewards and pleasure.
As a parent and educator, it was the first few paragraphs that really grabbed my attention, this profile of a young man addicted to the online game World of Warcraft:
The other day I had a wonderful conversation with one of my older students. He was brimming over with enthusiasm for his senior-level College Reading class.
It’s really more a structured study period than a class, in which students come in every day and spend the entire 48-minute period silently reading a book of their choice. When they’re finished they write a brief summary of the book and then select another.
The whole point, of course, is to get college-bound seniors used to the discipline of sustained, focused reading. And this particular student was loving it!
As soon as he left I grabbed my notebook and jotted down everything I could remember of what he had said so I could share with you this glimpse into the head of an older, more mature student. (Read on, dear parents of tweens, and take heart!):
Back-to-school time is the perfect time to start fresh routines and establish healthy habits. These are the ones parents and I have been talking about the most:
Have you ever felt like there were two people inside you vying for control?
I’m rereading Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, the Nobel prize-winning psychologist who studies reasoning and decision-making. Kahneman explains that our minds do contain two agents: A System One which makes quick, emotionally-based decisions, and a System Two which reasons slowly and deliberately.
The premise of Thinking Fast and Slow is that we’d all be better off if we learned awareness of these two systems so as to use the right system for the right purpose.
Most of the time, System One works just fine. It makes its decisions by applying heuristics (rules), which are stored in the brain innately or through prior experience. Because its answers are prepackaged, System One’s decisions are quick and feel easy and use little mental energy. System One works well in simple situations and on problems that are similar to ones that have been solved before.
But when situations are complex or novel, System Two ought to be hauled out. Many financial decisions (Should I buy this house?) and academic ones (What is the correct answer to this SAT question?) are properly the province of System Two. They ought to be reasoned out slowly and deliberately, with a vigilant eye out for mistakes and skipped steps and unfounded assumptions.
And yet, we all too often apply a System One-level decision to a System Two-level problem. That’s because “going by our gut” feels so pleasant and satisfying, whereas the application of meticulous mental effort is drudgery.
System Two thinking is physiologically uncomfortable. It burns more glucose (it literally consumes “mental energy,” which is why students should carry energy bar snacks to their standardized tests). Heart rate and blood pressure rise and pupils dilate. System Two work is a lot like running, and most of us would much rather walk:
“This is the essence of intuitive heuristics: when faced with a difficult question, we often answer an easier one instead, usually without noticing the substitution.”
Dear Friends, Many students believe it’s best to leave their summer math review for the end of the summer; they fear that if they do the work too early they will have forgotten the material again by September. In fact, the best way to make learning stick is to work at it consistently and review all summer long. The brain is exposed to a barrage of information every day, so how does it decide what to keep and what to forget? One big marker is repetition. The brain receives most facts only once, and because those bits of information never show up again they don’t need to be remembered.