What Does College Ready Really Mean, Anyway?

college-ready-students-sayWhat Does “College Ready” Really Mean, Anyway?

by Terry Heick

Yesterday, I was talking to my 14 year old daughter yesterday about the kinds of skills that translate to academic success.

I also actually used the sterile phrase “academic success.” This was an important distinction, as she’s home-schooled (another term I dislike) and learns through a kind of hybrid approach–a self-directed learning framework coupled with inquiry, combined with traditional academic tools. So for her, learning can happen on her phone, outside painting, writing her own music, or within the boundaries of a scripted lesson or unit.

And while that’s true for anyone, her learning, on a day-to-day basis, is designed that way. So when she talks about what it means to “do well in school,” she has to shift her thinking. As teachers, we often think of our classrooms and schools as “learning,” but really it’s only one form of learning with very strong flavors and tone–one driven by the idea of coverage over mastery, with that mastery measured by mostly universal assessments, and with the motivation to learn mostly institutional–letter grades, certification, endorsements, titles, etc.

You can fail.

“Drop out.”

Get “kicked out.”

Be interviewed.

Be selected.

Be rejected.

This approach has alienated a significant number of potentially brilliant children who, for whatever reason, didn’t make the cut, which creates a useful context to rethink education. Right, so, with Madison (my daughter), I told her that the universal skills of “doing well in school” (college, in this case) were literacy (close reading, skimming, note-taking, argument analysis and formation, the writing process, etc.), research (inquiry, sources, citations, and–the big one–understanding the value of specific data, and how to package that in an argument of your own), resourcefulness (to know where to go for what, and when), and communication (working together with peers, teachers, and other university–and external–resources, getting help, etc.).

Of course, this is incomplete. I was standing over her on the deck while she read, not giving a formal presentation. Still, I was trying to make the case to her how you learn is more important than what you know.

What Does “College-Ready” Mean?

This begs the question, What should high school prepare students for? A job? College? These limited answers, to me, miss the point of education entirely, but I’ll get to that in another post. In K-12 we tend to focus on grades and content knowledge, success in college, and then within any “careers,” may have unique factors. Grit is often the face of these skills, to which we can add resourcefulness, communication, collaboration, time-management, and other famously “soft skills.” The first two years of an undergrad degree can be much different than the next two (or three). Before being concerned with a major, there are General Education Requirements to fulfill, which dictate that a student have specific skills in math or reading or language, and that strong or poor performance on ACT/SAT testing can increase or reduce this work. So to suggest that content knowledge doesn’t matter would be incorrect. It’s possible, though, that the hardest academic work might depend most on the softest of skills.

A student might be thought of as “prepared for college” when they are highly literate, research fluent, self-motivated, and eager to connect with the people and ideas and resources and opportunities around them. But that’s too broad for policy, apparently. Or too narrow. In an article on Politico, David T. Conley, a University of Oregon education professor who has researched both Common Core and college readiness, explains, “It’s not just that people don’t agree on what ‘ready’ means. It’s that most of the definitions of ‘ready’ are far too narrow, and we don’t gather data in many key areas where students could improve their readiness if they knew they needed to do so.”

Not sure this makes sense, though. We need precise definitions and indicators for each specific student and their apparent “college readiness”? Like high school readiness? Or middle? Or the most problematic–career readiness? All of the “key areas” parsed and visible for teachers to “plan learning experiences”?

The more ambitious the scale of our improvement, the more we lose sight of the student in front of us–the one seeking wisdom, or the science background that nurtures a love of medicine, or the creative expression to become an artist, or the sheer courage to farm. College is just a word. The reasons for going to college is a more specific group of words, but also misunderstood (see the college dropout rate, which is somehow attributed to lack of “prep” instead of the high cost or dubious utility of many college classes). This whole education-to-life connection is a bit murky.

College Isn’t For Everybody

Without something at least approaching the universe of this kind of thinking, college is often a matter of momentum and social expectation and rat race. And 18 is way, way too early to enter the rat race. As a culture, we have an odd infatuation with college instead of the currency and output and rhythms of knowledge and people. College-worship is a deadly practice–same with GPA worship and letters-after-your-name ego. It’s nutty. The truth is, you never really know if a student is ready for college, because the college may not be ready for that student and their needs and dreams and vision.

College isn’t for everybody. If we were all rich and privileged, we could send every student to a 4-year undergrad program that could help give them a broad foundation of somewhat-personalized learning that high school never could. But some teens have babies. Or anxiety. Or creative angst. Or a need to provide for their family. Or learning disabilities. Or no sense of themselves as writers or thinkers. Or ambition bigger than a university campus.

This can’t all be untangled in middle and high school.

What A College Ready High School Student Can Say

So then, how can we recognize those students who might apply to, be accepted by, and otherwise excel in college?

A high school student might be ready for college when they can say:

  1. I read well, both for pleasure and understanding.
  2. I write well, either creatively or for communication.
  3. I understand how to research, extract key information, and evaluate its credibility and utility.
  4. I have personal reasons to learn–things I want to see, know, and understand.
  5. I see college as a trade–4-8+ years and X amount of dollars in exchange for something else. If that’s a good trade or a bad trade depends on my own measures that are personal to me and only me.
  6. I can either manage money, or am perma-funded by my parents or endless scholarships and loans that will drown me in debt.
  7. I am not scared of testing–or at least can test somewhat successfully.
  8. I know that people will project their thinking about college on me–what I should study, what’s “valuable,” why I should go, which one I should go to, etc. And that the more of this thinking I casually inherit (rather than think about and adopt), the more dangerous the takeaways.
  9. I have a clear vision of myself as an emerging learner, and what college can do for me to clarify that vision further to underpin me as a person.
  10. I can create and cultivate learning networks full of experts, mentors, peers, professionals, and educators.
  11. I can distinguish a teacher that’s there from a teacher that cares, and then get the best from each. (Because like it or not, teachers still dictate the terms of a student’s success in college no matter how motivated or demotivated a student might be.)
  12. I realize that knowledge precedes–and proceeds–vocation, and that the person precedes the knowledge.

If they can’t say these things, then they need to be able to say, with great certainty, “I have no idea what college is or why I might need it, but I trust myself to persevere and figure it out along the way.”

Or not go, and find their own path to their own good work.

What Does “College-Ready” Really Mean, Anyway? image attribution flickr user iksme


This School Is Designed To Let Kids Be Kids


This Is A School Designed To Let Kids Be Kids

by TeachThought Staff

As an architect, Takaharu Tezuka is a bit of an education outsider.

His ideas would get him thrown him out most classrooms, ridiculed for their danger, lack of rigor and complexity, inability to reflect a set curriculum, and a lack of “practical application.” Thankfully, some people are still willing to be “ridiculous.”

In true good work form, Tezuka has married his art (architecture) with a tremendous social need (innovation in learning and learning spaces) to create something simple and stunning and moving. A school designed on the idea of movement–one designed to let kids be kids. The net result is what is, at least as a matter of animation and survey, the best kindergarten you’ve ever seen.

In his TED Talk Tezuka explains, This kindergarten is completely open, most of the year. And there is no boundary between inside and outside. So it means basically this architecture is a roof. And also there is no boundary between classrooms. So there is no acoustic barrier at all. When you put many children in a quiet box, some of them get really nervous. But in this kindergarten, there is no reason they get nervous.

Because there is no boundary.”


“And the principal says if the boy in the corner doesn’t want to stay in the room, we let him go. He will come back eventually, because it’s a circle, it comes back.

“The traffic jam is awful in Tokyo, as you know. The driver in front, she needs to learn how to drive. Now these days, kids need a small dosage of danger. And in this kind of occasion, they learn to help each other. This is society. This is the kind of opportunity we are losing these days.

“They keep running. My point is, don’t control them. Don’t protect them too much. They need to tumble sometimes. That makes them learn how to live in this world.”

You can hear more about how Tezuka married architecture, design, and education in his talk below.

“At this school in Tokyo, five-year-olds cause traffic jams and windows are for Santa to climb into. Meet: the world’s cutest kindergarten, designed by architect Takaharu Tezuka. In this charming talk, he walks us through a design process that really lets kids be kids.”

A School Designed To Let Kids Be Kids: The Best Kindergarten You’ve Ever Seen


The Physiology Of Bullying

twentyfourstudents-fiAcetaminophen Reduces Social Pain? The Physiology Of Bullying

by David Palank, Principal at San Miguel School in Washington D.C.

Study Abstract Summary

Pain, whether caused by physical injury or social rejection, is an inevitable part of life. These two types of pain-physical and social-may rely on some of the same behavioral and neural mechanisms that register pain-related affect. To the extent that these pain processes overlap, acetaminophen, a physical pain suppressant that acts through central (rather than peripheral) neural mechanisms, may also reduce behavioral and neural responses to social rejection. In two experiments, participants took acetaminophen or placebo daily for 3 weeks. Doses of acetaminophen reduced reports of social pain on a daily basis (Experiment 1). We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure participants’ brain activity (Experiment 2), and found that acetaminophen reduced neural responses to social rejection in brain regions previously associated with distress caused by social pain and the affective component of physical pain (dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, anterior insula). Thus, acetaminophen reduces behavioral and neural responses associated with the pain of social rejection, demonstrating substantial overlap between social and physical pain.

The Physiology Of Bullying

A student’s social status faces no bigger threat in schools than bullying.

In research, schools with a higher bullying rate, subsequently had lower scores on algebra, geography, earth science, biology, and world history. At first glance, bullying and academic achievement should not be related because one is academic and one is behavioral. This is not a coincidence. While bullying has taken the mainstream media by storm in recent years, the neuroscience behind what truly happens to students is usually absent from these reports.

Bullying is most detrimental to students when others stand by and do nothing while the harassment occurs. The brain perceives the bystanders as participating in the action because their lack of action is processed as a tacit endorsement of the bullying.  On a psychological level, we think that bullies speak for everyone. We are wired to believe that if this person has socially rejected us, then the masses have rejected us.

Bullying is dangerous because social pain actually activates the same neural circuitry as physical pain. This means that the system in the brain that sends pain signals is hijacked when one is in social pain or is exposed to a social threat.

When you stub your toe, the pain is pretty much all you can think about for a few seconds. Pain may be considered a purely physiologically effect by some, but that would not explain the fact that we can use meditation and hypnosis to deter some of the effects of pain.

A 2011 study found that “After 4 days of mindfulness meditation training, meditating in the presence of noxious stimulation significantly reduced pain unpleasantness by 57% and pain intensity ratings by 40% when compared to rest.” Therefore, pain must also be a psychological process. Banging your funny bone, elbow, toe, or other body part will decrease your ability to concentrate on anything else but that pain.

Pain and emotion are experienced at the same time in the brain. If we are in pain it invokes an emotional response (remember that our brains are wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain).  The same concept applies to social pain  Unfortunately, social pain can last a lot longer. Students, who were bullied on regular basis in middle school, had a much higher rate of suicide years later. Those who were bullied at age 8, were six times more likely to commit suicide by age 25.

The part of the brain that processes social pain is the Dorsal Anterior Cingulate Cortex (dACC). “Studies have suggested that the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) is a key brain region involved in the detection of social exclusion.” Removal of this part of the brain in rats resulted in the survival of only about 20% of their pups. This is due to the fact that they did not feel enough attachment to their pups to help them survive.

When part of the dACC was removed in patients with chronic pain, anxiety, and depression those in chronic pain still had pain. However, they claimed that the pain “didn’t bother them anymore.” Using this logic, scientists wanted to see if painkillers would dampen social pain as well.

cheriejoyfulSocial Rejection–And Tylenol?

Cyberball is a game designed by scientists to make the player (the research subject) feel rejected.  One subject believes he or she is playing against two other players in a virtual video game.  However, the subject is only playing against a computer. At first, all three players toss the ball to each other in turn. But at a certain point, the computer controlled players cut the poor research participant out of the game. They toss the ball just to each other.

Even though this is a silly game in a research study and has no bearing on real life, the research subjects reported (and brain scans showed) that they were really distressed, hurt and rejected. Even when then scientists told him it was not a human, but just a computer, his brain reacted the same way. This social rejection is so ingrained that even when we are told that it’s a not human, we feel the pain.

The most interesting part of the study is how their brains processed the social rejection. To the brain, social pain feels a lot like physical pain. The more rejected the participant said he or she felt, the more activity there was in the part of the brain that processes the distress of physical pain.

In a follow-up study, participants were called into the lab and, like last time, played Cyberball in the brain scanner. But this time, the researchers added a new variable. Before they came into the lab, half of them had taken Tylenol every day for three weeks while the other half had taken a placebo. What the researchers found in this study was remarkable: the placebo group felt just as rejected and pained as those in the initial study, but the people in the Tylenol group were immune to the social pain of feeling left out.

Social rejection is so central to our well-being that evolution decided that social pain is processed the same way as physical pain.

Social Pain, Rewards, and Consequences

Evolutionarily, the better we understand our social environment the better our lives became. Therefore, in students, social interest is no distraction, but it is actually the most important thing they can learn well. A person in pain has fewer cognitive and attentional resources at their disposal, and this is no different when it comes to social pain. This social pain can lead to a dramatic reduction not only in a student’s sense of well-being, but in their ability to learn, which creates a destructive cycle.

Teachers that do not allow social interaction are actively contributing to this pain. Disallowing social interaction is like telling someone that hasn’t eaten to turn off his or her desire to eat. The more that you allow for positive social interaction, the likelihood of social hunger being a distraction will inevitably decline.

It becomes a distraction to students because our bodies realize that social interaction is critical to survival.

You can visit David’s blog and look for his upcoming book, “Class Hacker.”; Acetaminophen Reduces Social Pain? The Physiology Of Bullying; image attribution flickr user twentyfourstudents and cheriejoyful

1 Lieberman, M. (2013). Educating the Social Brain. In Social: Why our brains are wired to connect (p. 277). Broadway Books.
2 Zeidan, F., Martucci, K., Kraft, R., Gordon, N., Mchaffie, J., & Coghill, R. (2011). Brain Mechanisms Supporting the Modulation of
Pain by Mindfulness Meditation. Journal of Neuroscience, 31(36), 5540-5548.
3 Lieberman, M. (2013). Social: Why our brains are wired to connect (p. 69). Broadway Books
4 Kawamoto, T., Onoda, K., Nakashima, K., Nittono, H., Yamaguchi, S., & Ura, M. (2012). Is dorsal anterior cingulate cortex
activation in response to social exclusion due to expectancy violation? An fMRI study. Frontiers in Evolutionary Neuroscience.
5 Lieberman, M. (2013).Broken Hearts and Broken Legs. In Social: Why our brains are wired to connect (p. 53). Broadway
6 Eisenberger, N. (2003). Does Rejection Hurt? An FMRI Study Of Social Exclusion. Science, 290-292
7 Lieberman, M. (2013). Educating the Social Brain. In Social: Why our brains are wired to connect (p. 282-283). Broadway
8 Lieberman, M. (2013). Educating the Social Brain. In Social: Why our brains are wired to connect (p. 270). Broadway Books.
9 Ibid.
10 Ibid. p.283
11 Ibid. p.283

Preventing Youth Suicide Through Lessons Of Hope

preventing-youth-suicide-lessons-of-hopePreventing Youth Suicide Through Lessons Of Hope

by TeachThought Staff

CHICAGO, IL — Schools for Hope is a new, free educational curriculum that was developed by The International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression (iFred) to prevent youth suicide by giving students, educators and parents the necessary learning tools to find and maintain hope.  According to a recent study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, 1 out of 9 children self-reported a suicide attempt before graduating high school; with forty percent of those children in grade school.  Schools for Hope provides free life-saving skills to children, teachers and parents with the goal of reversing those staggering statistics

“Teaching children the importance of caring for their mental health is crucial to their emotional well-being and quality of life,” said Penny Tate, Schools for Hope Project Manager.  “By giving children tools to have hope, we not only aid in their ability to handle life’s challenges and save lives, but we empower them to become their most vital selves.  As a mother of two young girls, and as a survivor of suicide loss, I’ve seen firsthand the importance and critical need that exists to have an open dialogue with our children and give them hope.”

Schools for Hope is a free program that is available to any interested school, community group, after school program or nonprofit in the U.S. and overseas.  It has comprehensive instructions and can be easily self-led, so the costs associated with implementation are low.  The curriculum is based on research that suggests hope is a teachable skill—a vitally important aptitude because hopelessness is the leading symptom of depression and predictor of suicide.

The curriculum is made up of ten core lessons and additional workshops on Heroes for Hope, Movies for Hope and Artwork for Hope. It is currently being tested among 5th graders because of the significant rise in suicide attempts in sixth grade, and educates students on the importance of emotional health and well-being, how to get their brain into a hopeful state, and meditation and deep breathing techniques.  The program also teaches children how to define hope, explore and define the meaning of ‘success’, and practice emotional self-regulation techniques. They will also learn about the biology of the brain and how to connect their passion and purpose in life.

iFred launched Schools for Hope in Fall 2014 in two Chicago-area school districts (Woodland Intermediate School in  Gurnee, IL and Oakland School in Antioch, IL) with the goal of expanding nationally and internationally. The program is expanding to South America and Nepal this year, and is available for translation and in cobranded partnerships with other nonprofits interested in teaching the curriculum to their members.

“I enjoyed teaching the lessons because I think that our students aren’t really in touch with their emotions,” said April Cooksey, a 5th grade teacher at Woodland School.  “I believe that this project created a safe place for my students to express their thoughts and feelings.”

Amy Werner, also a teacher at Woodland School added, “My students looked forward to the hope lessons every day.  They couldn’t wait to learn and often still ask when we will do more lessons.  It’s not often students ask to be educated!”

For interest in testing or implementing the 5th grade curriculum, please email Schools for Hope at or visit the website to download the free lesson plans.  There are also tools and support items for teachers and educators, as well as research to date on the program and information on how the curriculum fits with current social and emotional learning standards mandated in several states.  More information is available at

Fall Curriculum

(Fall) Lesson 1: Define Hope

(Fall) Lesson 2: Hopeful people live more fulfilling and successful lives

(Fall) Lesson 3: Hope happens in the ‘upstairs’ brain

(Fall) Lesson 4: Self-regulation

(Fall) Lesson 5: Sacredness

Spring Curriculum

(Spring) Lesson 6: Hope revisited

(Spring) Lesson 7: Setting goals and creating action steps to those goals

(Spring) Lesson 8: Anticipating and planning for obstacles

(Spring) Lesson 9: Using hope tools to cope with unexpected events; finding someone to support you

(Spring) Lesson 10: Giving back

About iFred: International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression’s mission is to shine a positive light on depression and eliminate the stigma associated with the disease through prevention, research and education.  Its goal is to ensure 100% of the 350 million people affected by depression seek and receive treatment.

iFred is creating a shift in society’s negative perception of the disease through positive imagery and branding-establishing the sunflower and the color yellow as the international symbols of hope for depression.  To further its mission, iFred engages with individuals and organizations to execute high impact and effective campaigns that educate the public about support and treatment for depression.

Website: Twitter: @iFredorg Facebook:


A Very, Very Powerful Motivational Video For Teens

A Very, Very Powerful Motivational Video For Teens

by TeachThought Staff

Motivation is one of the great mysteries of humankind. Why do we want what we want?

We even study it in literature–character motivation. What does this character want, and what do they have to overcome to get it?

The answer is never simple. Even a reductionist take says that there are primary and secondary motivations–and thus often primary and secondary conflicts in any story.

Student motivation goes into even deeper waters: What motivates this student to “succeed” in school? Is it intrinsic motivation or extrinsic motivation? Does it ebb and flow? Is it perishable altogether?

And does success mean different things for different students? Good grades? Reaching a new personal best? Reconfiguring their self-identity as a learner and as a student? Simply showing up every day for a week?

The video above distills the idea of motivation into something elemental. If you’re motivated by things or events or glory, you’re not motivated at all because that’s not motivation. You’re not really motivated to achieve something until you want it as bad as you want your next breath. And every decision you make directly impacts that achievement–whatever that achievement is for that student. When you say you want something, and then act in a way that indicates otherwise, that’s revealing.

That’s not even “bad” necessarily. It clarifies things for you, because it’s clear you don’t really want it. You just want to say you want it. You just like to talk about goals. You like the way it feels to feign ambition. If you can’t make progress, you find things to blame.

But the truth is something simpler: Until you can’t be deterred, you don’t really want it.

Note, there is a whole bunch of shirtless-dude in this video, so consider your audience accordingly. It uses a football player training as a backdrop for the message, so it probably wouldn’t appeal much to younger children, or maybe even to you as a teacher.

But for teens–especially males–it may just get their attention.

A Very, Very Powerful Motivational Video For Teens


Unplugging To Connect: A Tech Timeout For Schools?

flickeringbrad-some-teachers-are-against-education-technologyUnplugging To Connect: A Tech Timeout For Schools?

by TeachThought Staff

From a press release: As part of a national movement called the Tech Timeout Academic Challenge, a San Francisco school will shut down their tech devices for three days beginning February 12.


What happens when over 1,100 students in grades K-12, at a school that prides itself on ubiquitous access to technology, power down their electronic devices for three straight days? That question will be answered on February 12-14 when students at Convent & Stuart Hall in San Francisco take The Tech Timeout Academic Challenge. It will be the first school in the greater Bay Area to take the challenge and just the third in California.

The Convent & Stuart Hall Tech Timeout is unique in that it includes students ranging in age from four to 18 and spans the divide between school-provided technology and personal devices such as cell phones. All students are encouraged to participate and will complete a pledge sheet where they list all of the technologies from which they agree to abstain. Parents can also participate and will be given a family kit that they can use to help them succeed.

“The opt-in is a critical piece,” says Howard Levin, Director of Educational Innovation and Information Services.

The hope is that participating students and their families will walk away from the Tech Timeout with a better understanding of their dependence on technology. Following the challenge, students will discuss their experience of going “tech-free” and evaluate their personal practice of how to disconnect.

“In some ways the kid that fails has a better chance of being reflective,” Howard says. “We want to create cognitive dissonance among those who join.”

This is the first year that Convent & Stuart Hall has fully adopted an ePack program across all ages designed to provide daily access to a wide range of digital tools, including a 1-to-1 program with the Apple iPad, but encompassing much more than a single device. Howard says that at the heart of the program is a desire to change the ed-tech model from “learn to use” in computer labs to a “use to learn” model where technology can aid in any lesson.

To reflect this shift, the school recently designed new positions for its ed-tech faculty. Now a team of Educational Innovation Coordinators work full-time to support teachers in the use of digital tools and innovative spaces. The administration is in part facilitating the timeout to ensure that the school continues to use the provided devices in the most effective and mindful way.

“A school like ours that embraces a 1-to-1 program needs to find balance,” Howard says. “We need to also help students not only learn how to use technology wisely, but how to recognize how devices can get in the way of having real conversations and relationships.”

The Tech Timeout Academic Challenge sponsored by Foresters will launch on Feb 12 with an assembly where students will seal their phones inside envelopes.

To date, more than 16,000 students across North America have participated in the challenge.

Howard Levin and Ann Marie Krejcarek, President of Schools along with a Foresters spokesperson, are available for further comments. To learn more about the Tech Timeout Academic Challenge, visit:; adapted flickr user flickeringbrad; Unplugging To Connect: A Tech Timeout For Schools?


A New Priority? Teaching Mindfulness In Elementary School

teaching-mindfulness-kindergartenA New Priority: Teaching Mindfulness In Elementary School

From a press release

MADISON, Wis. — Over the course of 12 weeks, twice a week, the prekindergarten students learned their ABCs. Attention, breath and body, caring practice — clearly not the standard letters of the alphabet.

Rather, these 4- and 5-year-olds in the Madison Metropolitan School District were part of a study assessing a new curriculum meant to promote social, emotional and academic skills, conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Investigating Healthy Minds (CIHM) at the Waisman Center.

Researchers found that kids who had participated in the curriculum earned higher marks in academic performance measures and showed greater improvements in areas that predict future success than kids who had not. The results were recently published in the journal Developmental Psychology.

“This work started a number of years ago when we were looking at ways to possibly help children develop skills for school and academic success, as well as in their role as members of a global community,” says study lead author Lisa Flook, a CIHM scientist. “There was a strong interest in looking at cultivating qualities of compassion and kindness.”

While mindfulness-based approaches for children have become popular in recent years, few are backed by rigorous scientific evidence. The research team — graduate research assistant Simon Goldberg; outreach specialist Laura Pinger; and CIHM founder Richard Davidson, the UW-Madison William James and Vilas Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry — set out to change that.

The team developed a curriculum to help children between the ages of 4 and 6 years learn how to be more aware of themselves and others through practices that encourage them to bring mindful attention to present moment experience. These practices, the researchers hypothesized, could enhance the children’s self-regulation skills – such as emotional control and the capacity to pay attention — and influence the positive development of traits like impulse control and kindness.

Past studies show the ability to self-regulate in early childhood predicts better results later in life with health, educational attainment and financial stability. Flook says early childhood is an opportune time to equip children with these skills since their brains are rapidly developing. The skills may also help them cope with future life stress.

“Knowing how critical these skills are at an early age, if there are ways to promote them, it could help set kids on a more positive life trajectory,” says Flook.

Throughout the study period, trained CIHM instructors taught the curriculum in diverse classrooms throughout the Madison area and worked with students through hands-on activities involving movement, music and books. Each lesson provided students and teachers the opportunity to participate in mindfulness practices, including activities focused on compassion and gratitude, and to take note of their experience.

For example, kids were encouraged to think about people who are helpful to them – sometimes those they may not know well, like the bus driver — and to reflect on the role these people play in their lives, Flook says.

Teachers reported one of the kids’ favorite activities was a practice called “Belly Buddies,” in which they listened to music while lying on their backs, a small stone resting on their stomachs. They were asked to notice the sensation of the stone, and to feel it rising and falling as they breathed in and out.

“It’s something that’s so simple and it allows them to experience internal quietness and a sense of calm,” says Flook.

They also each received alphabet bracelets to wear, to help them remember their kindness curriculum ABCs. The curriculum itself is rooted in long-standing adult mindfulness-based practices but was adapted to the children’s developmental ability.

The researchers measured the impact of the curriculum on sharing by using stickers the kids could choose to give to a variety of others or keep for themselves. They measured the kids’ ability to delay gratification by choosing one small reward to have immediately or waiting to receive a larger treat later.

The team looked at how well kids could switch from one mental task to another in a card sorting activity, where they were first asked to sort by shape, then by color, and finally, a mix of both. That’s a particularly challenging skill for young kids, Flook says. The research team also assessed the students’ ability to pay attention by measuring how well they identified particularly oriented arrows on a screen despite the presence of other on-screen distractions, and it examined the students’ academic performance in the months following the study.

In addition to improved academics, the 30 students who went through the curriculum showed less selfish behavior over time and greater mental flexibility than the 38 kids in the control group. Flook cautions that while the study was designed as a randomized control trial, additional, larger studies are needed to demonstrate the curriculum’s true power. However, the results demonstrate its potential.

Ultimately, the researchers would like to see mindfulness-based practices become “woven into” the school day, adapted to students across grade levels, becoming a foundation for how teachers teach and how students approach learning, Flook says.

“I think there’s increasing recognition of how social, emotional and cognitive functioning are intermingled; that kids may have difficulty in school when emotional challenges arise and that impacts learning,” she adds. “Can you imagine how this could shift the climate of our schools, our community, our world, if cultivating these qualities was at the forefront of education?”

Image attribution flickr user matseriksson


Maybe It’s Time To Stop Talking About Bullying, And Talk Kindness Instead

woodleywonderworks-boys-making-planesMaybe It’s Time To Stop Talking About Bullying, And Talk Kindness Instead

by Lisa

I thought I was in a safe environment.

A group on facebook where people from around the world gathered to exchange information and tips on a range of topics. I understood it to be a forum where I could ask questions and people would offer solutions and support without judgement.

When a subject I was interested in was posted, I joined the conversation. Being in a different time zone, most of the others were sleeping then, so I didn’t check the forum again until the next day.

A lot happened on the other side of the globe during the night, and I woke to find I was the subject of abuse and condemnation. As I read the responses, I was shocked that such an innocent question had triggered angry and targeted outbursts by a few of the women.

I’d like to say that it didn’t affect me. As an adult I should have been able to brush it off, but how could I when the insults had followed me to my community page as well. I felt embarrassed, hurt and physically ill.

Being new to the group, I was left reeling. Stunned, miserable, and completely deflated, my entire agenda for the day had gone out the window. I struggled to get a handle on my emotions and understand what had happened. I didn’t think I’d said anything that should have triggered such a public attack.

My First Response

My first reaction was to leave the group, but there was a part of me that felt that wasn’t the answer. I felt like a victim as the reality of my first cyberbullying experience started to sink in. Then it occurred to me that these women must have been victims too.

Drawing on the work I do with school children, I thought about the bullies whose hearts I help to soften by teaching them how to be kind. I thought about the way most people respond to bullies with anger and hatred. There’s usually no consideration or empathy for the hardships a bully has endured. Few are able to imagine what someone’s may have been through to become so bitter and angry that they want to belittle others.

When I applied this to these women, I felt a softening and wondered what they had been through to respond that way. The whole experience got me thinking about other victims of bullying. Many children and adult endure much worse than I had, relentlessly tormented every day.In days gone by, it was bullying in the schoolyard that kids could shut the door on when they went home. What makes it worse now is that bullying is now longer confined and it’s claiming lives!

Modern bullying is in your face. The advent of the internet and mobile phones means bullies are everywhere. With you in your pocket, your home and your bedroom… there’s just no escape!

Too many children have become statistics. Often unsupported because they’re uncomfortable talking about it. Sometimes they’re ashamed or feel that they’ll disappoint their parents if they tell. My own son begged me not to tell the teachers about a time when he was being bullied because he feared it would get worse!

It makes me feel sick knowing this is a reality for so many kids and their families. How do they cope, go to school and where’s the joy in their life if that’s what they’ve got to deal with every day When I looked up the latest statistics on cyberbullying, I was horrified to find that McAfee reported an increase.

“Despite significant efforts to discourage cyberbullying and its negative effects, the number of occurrences continues to grow with 87% of youth having witnessed cyberbullying. Of those who responded they were cyberbullied, 72% responded it was due to appearance while 26% answered due to race or religion and 22% stated their sexuality was the driving factor. Of those who witnessed cyberbullying, 53% responded the victims became defensive or angry, while 47% said the victims deleted their social media accounts, underscoring its significant emotional impact. While the study reveals cyberbullying continues to represent a serious problem for youth, the 2014 survey found 24% of youth would not know what to do if they were harassed or bullied online.” 

My own experience and the horrifying data makes me fear for the future and how many more innocent lives will be damaged or destroyed. It makes me more determined than ever to do my part in changing the way kids interact. It’s gone on long enough and I don’t know how we expect things to change if we don’t change the way we approach the issue.

Our Collective Response

We’re not going to stop bullying overnight, we need an ongoing, long term plan.As past approaches seem to be falling short, we have to change the way we tackle bullying. I’m convinced that we have to confront it with its psychological opposite – kindness. It’s far more effective to teach children the positive behaviour that will help them understand what it means to be a good friend.

In-school character education and kindness programs address bullying in a positive way. They also equip students with the social and emotional skills they’ll need all their lives. Kids are suffering–sometimes being pushed to breaking point. It makes me sad and angry to think we really haven’t come very far in this war against bullying, even after investing so much time and money.

Maybe it’s time to stop talking about bullying, and start talking about kindness instead.


Lisa Currie is the founder of Ripple Kindness Project. A community project and whole school curriculum to improve social, emotional and mental health and reduce bullying.The positive psychology curriculum teaches children about their emotions and the impact their words and actions have. Ongoing lessons and activities provide opportunities for students to notice and shown kindness in everyday situations to make altruism a natural and instinctive part of life.; Adapted image attribution flickr user woodleywonderworks; Maybe It’s Time To Stop Talking About Bullying, And Talk Kindness Instead


A(n Insufficent) Reading List To Help Students Begin To Grapple With Race

reading-list-grapple-with-race-3A Reading List To Help Students Begin To Grapple With Race

by Terry Heick

Because that’s what it is–grappling.

Anything involving something as far-reaching and historically-entrenched as race is more or less resistant to “quick looks” or even mere discussions. We can hope to be “dialogic” and “come to terms” with what we feel or what they said or who, in fact, “they” are, but race is, if nothing else, a logical, ethical, and political puzzle–or rather a human one with logical, ethical, and political perspectives.

Which is where the following list comes in. I teach English, so in light of the events in Ferguson (I had to go back and delete #ferguson), I thought it might be useful to share a reading list that might help students (probably those in grades 7-12, now that I look at the list) begin to make sense of race relations in the United States between “whites” and “blacks.”

  • Some of these–in fact most, probably–are pretty obvious.
  • Some aren’t directly about race–Howl and The Wasteland, for example–but rather human expression, folly, angst, and survival.
  • Most are books or poems, but I also have a speech and a couple of songs. And all can be accessed in some way, shape, or form through digital media.
  • You personally may not like some of the selections–that’s okay. This is all subjective.
  • Some of it has some rough language and may not be useful to anyone outside of a university. Caveat emptor. The world isn’t as clean as academia seeks to stay.
  • Some of the links aren’t to the media itself, but an article about the media. (If you’re a teacher, I trust you can hunt down an actual licensed copy of said work that won’t get your librarian in an uproar.)
  • If you want to read a white man’s struggle to come to terms with his own sense of race/racism, start with “The Hidden Wound,” by Wendell Berry.

If you have any you’d like to add, leave a note in the comments below. I considered opening this list to all races, ethnicities, genders, sexualities, etc.  (“The House On Mango Street,” for example), but as Ferguson is (at least most immediately) related to the “whites” and “blacks” (here are two more terms that probably need washing from our vernacular), I thought we could start there. If this kind of curricula-style content is useful, we can do more, no?

I purposefully left out the “how and why you should teach this” part for each title. I can add it if that’s helpful.

A(n Insufficent) Reading List To Help Students Begin To Grapple With Race

  1. A Dream Deferred, by Langston Hughes
  2. The Hidden Wound, by Wendell Berry
  3. By The Time I Get To Arizona, by Public Enemy (Language)
  4. Howl, by Alan Ginsberg
  5. Black Rage, Lauryn Hill
  6. The House Negro & The Field Negro, by Malcolm X
  7. Everything That Rises Must Converge, by Flannery O’Connor
  8. We Real Cool, by Gwendolyn Brooks
  9. The Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
  10. Why We Can’t Wait, by Martin Luther King, Jr.
  11. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
  12. The White Man’s Burden, by Rudyard Kipling
  13. The Wasteland, by T.S. Eliot
  14. Los Angeles Notebook, by Joan Didion
  15. F*ck The Police, by NWA
  16. King Lear, by William Shakespeare
  17. Barn Burning, by William Faulkner
  18. I, Too, Sing America by Langston Hughes



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Reading List To Help Students Begin To Grapple With Race


The Best Kind Of Summer Slide: A Summer Bucket List

betancourt-summer-activitiesThe Best Kind Of Summer Slide: A Summer Bucket List

by Corrine Jacobalternatetutelage

Our family has all but forgotten the ghost of winter past. We are now basking in the glow of this glorious, glorious summer weather. If you’re a homeschooler like me, your mind is currently occupied with scheduling activities so that the summer doesn’t go to waste. If your kids are home from school, summer is a great time for a vacation and plenty of trips to the beach.

As a parent, a concern of yours could be the dreaded summer slideIn all the planning and scheduling, we tend to forget the most important fact of them all – our kids are home and the time is perfect to do all the things we’ve always wanted to do with them. If you look closely, you’ll see that they want to spend quality time with you too. Keeping this in mind (and I am a rather sentimental person), I decided to go on a quest to make a list of 5 things I am going to cross off my parenting summer bucket list. 

This is a mission to realize a better kind of summer slide.

5 Summer Activities For Your Summer Bucket List

1. Write and illustrate a story together

When I read to my kids when they were younger, I used to replace the main character names with theirs. The amount of giggles and thrills that such a simple swap inspired made me think of this bucket list item. There is nothing as vast as a child’s imagination and to capture those brilliant ideas, all you need is a few sheets of paper (or a scrapbook), some crayons and something to bind them all together.

For the tech friendly, there are a myriad of software you can opt for, making it easier to save and share your tales with loved ones. Apart from the obvious advantages of developing language skills and exercising creativity, you get the added bonus of creating something with your child. It’s not too late to capture your summer activities and convert them into captivating stories of jaw dropping adventure.

2. Create a Carnival at Home

I have always loved carnivals and have wanted to host my own for years and years now. I always back off at the last minute because of the amount of preparation it requires. However, my serial Pinterest-ing has led to the discovery of games that can easily be set up. I have decided to limit myself to 5 games. I have also realized that this could be a great opportunity to unwind with other parent friends and host a barbecue cum pot luck lunch. Here are some of the treasures I found on Pinterest and on other parenting blogs.

How to Throw a Kids Carnival Party – Ideas on themes and activities for a homemade Carnival!

Passing Practice – All this really requires is cutting out shapes on tarp and then having scores for each of cut out.

Sumo Wrestler Bowling – I do love the two birds, one stone phrase especially in this context. This is a great way to recycle old plastic bottles, get some kids arts and crafts in and use them to our advantage at a Carnival game.

3. Throw an MMORPG Party

When I was younger, I always wanted to be a “cool” mom when I grew up. This label is only awarded to you if you are in touch with what’s in. One of these things is video games – their allure is undisputed and we can wax ad nauseam about its pros and cons. I was a bit on the fence until I read this article on teaching with video games. It gave me direction and instead of banning video games outright, I thought I’d host an MMORPG for kids. The idea is to ask them to bring their laptops/tablets to the house and then play together.

I spent a lot of time researching MMORPGs that are not only fun to play but also have a subtle educational kick to it and I was ecstatic when I discovered School of Dragons. From the 30 minutes I played on it, I figured it was perfect for my party because a) It is based on the Scientific Method b) It teaches Earth Sciences (There are parts of the game where I have to grow my own plant, figure out the kinds of rocks etc.) c) It’s a multi-player game and so the kids friends could join a clan and play together d) DRAGONS!

As an added twist, I’m exploring the idea of having the parents play as well. Imagine the thrill of having your parent playing your favorite game with you!

4. Create a slip ‘n slide in the backyard

This one’s pretty simple, but kids love them.

You don’t need a pool for kids to get wet. If summer doesn’t include water and assorted water activities, then there might soon be an impeachment and a call to vote for the next World’s greatest mum. All jokes aside, while swimming and regular trips to the beach are part of your summer to-do list, creating a slip and slide will ensure a summer to remember. It isn’t as difficult or messy as one assumes it would be. All you need is heavy duty plastic sheets and water and you’re set. For a tutorial, read this post by Hope Studios.

A few tips:

1. If you don’t want to slide, make it your job to create a game of it. Keep the slide wet. Have a contest. Create a (playful) rule. Give every child an award of some kind. Play music. Keep things safe, but fun!

2. Make sure the area beneath the slip-and-slide is free from rocks, sticks, and other debris. These things can bring the pain.

3. Make sure there is plenty of room to stop before sliding across a sidewalk, into a wall, etc. You’d think kids would show common sense here, but sometimes not so much.

4. Pick up the slide right after sliding; it can kill grass pretty quick otherwise.

5. A small amount of soap or other skin-safe lubricant can increase the fun, but be very conservative in your application. Soap in the eyes isn’t as fun as it sounds.

5. Camp in the backyard

I love camping and I don’t know if it’s because they are not yet teens, but my kids love camping as well. Instead of going out to crowded camping sites in famous places (it is summer vacation after all), I thought we could have a nice backyard campsite – complete with stargazing, storytelling by the fire side and s’mores. The advantage of this is that if you run low on blankets or food or if you really need to answer the call of nature, your house is 2 steps away. A little searching led me to this brilliant article on Ideas for Camping out in your backyard by Parenting.

What are your plans for the summer? Would you consider making a summer bucket list? What would your list have? I’m curious to hear your ideas!

Corinne Jacob is a wannabe writer who is convinced that kids learn best when they’re having fun. She is constantly on the lookout for new and exciting ways to make learning an enjoyable experience. Corinne loves all things that scream out un-schooling, alternative education and holistic learning; adapted image attribution flickr user betancourt; 5 Summer Activities For Your Parenting Summer Bucket List


Talking To Students About Homosexuality

talking-to-students-about-homosexualityTalking To Students About Homosexuality

On the surface, discussing sexuality in schools doesn’t seem an entirely natural thing–not in an era of academics, anyway.

From the inception of American public education through the early 1990s, classes on Home Economics, Woodworking, Shop, Automotive Repair, and even Sexual Education were standard fare. (One of these was probably more awkward than the rest.) And while tropes of middle-aged teachers uncomfortably discussing the birds and the bees with a co-ed class of teenagers persists, “real world” content has largely fallen out of favor in many public school systems.

This places teachers–especially middle and high school–in an awkward position when have always been issues (such as sex and gender issues in general) are supplanted by charged issues that are new issues from the here and now to students. When one of those issues is homosexuality–a topic of considerable cultural complexity that touches personal, social, and religious “boundaries”–it can make it even more difficult to approach.

These are usually the kinds of issues that are “discussed” through policy in terms of what is allowed and what is not, and how to respond when X or Y happens. Which makes things even more clinical and awkward. But if the video below is any indication, talking to students about homosexuality may be easier now than ever before.

Generations are delineated by change; that’s what makes one generation distinct from the next. Views on homosexuality are no different. In fact, talking to students about sexuality in general is different now than pre-internet days.

Social Media & Sexuality

But if we’re being entirely honest about things, the students in the video represent an exceptionally well-adjusted, open-minded, and “tolerant” perspective on sexuality. It’s an over-generalization to say that “kids today accept X but reject Y.” It may be accurate, however, to suggest that students today have been exposed to far more diversity than in any generation before. Social media puts different choices and perspectives on full display, right there on their smartphone and tablets screen.

Vine and instagram don’t filter content based on sexuality.

Many teachers may not have heard the word “homosexual” until they were in their teens; today there are entire social media channels, blogs, and movements dedicated to choices that have historically been seen as “other.” Social media creates prejudices and gaps of its own–including those related to tech access–it has dissovled others that have existed for generations.

If you do need to talk to your students about homosexuality, it will probably be more challenging–and awkward–than the easygoing good times and sage 8 year-olds demonstrated in the video. But there are ways you can make it less so.

8 Tips For Talking To Students About Homosexuality

1. It’s not about tolerance

It’s about empathy and perspective–being able to see things from other perspectives. To “tolerate” something implies it’s bad and you’ll let it slide. That is not the perspective that will move things forward. While you may disagree with it, the world is full of disagreement. Uniformity is not a possibility.

2. It’s not about position

This, in turn, means that talking to students about homosexuality is also not about your or their position on the matter. These conversations are usually had in terms of opinion and exchange. That’s okay to do as part of the process, but talking to students about homosexuality can’t start and stop on yours–or their–position on the issue.

3. Listen more than you talk

Listening may be the most important part of teaching. The more they talk, the more you know what they believe, and how you can support them moving forward.

4. Help them see historical perspective

Not to frame homosexuality as a “movement,” but rather as a matter of anthropology. Humans group together based on identity and shared values. When those values clash, there are short and long-term effects. All kinds of cross-curricular opportunity here, from biodiversity to literature to civil rights to math, and on and on.

5. Balance public dialogue with personal journaling

As with all topics, not all students will be comfortable sharing their ideas. Try to balance public conversations (if you use them at all), with private thought-sharing through journaling.

6. Don’t do it in isolation

The more families, other teachers, and other relevant folks are a part of the discussions, the more authentic they will be. And the more you’ll be shielded from pushback.

7. Expect pushback

Not everyone thinks the same. Homosexuality only really came to the forefront of conversations in schools in the last decade, often around the idea of school proms! This is not utopia, and not everyone will agree. That doesn’t mean you should rebel and fight the system. You’re not Gandhi. Your goal is to help students master content, not create a climate of acceptance in communities.

But if you go in knowing what to expect, it will make resistance easier to navigate.

8. Be confident–or don’t do it at all

But when you do approach the topic, do so with confidence or not at all. If you’re not comfortable with the idea, get that way before sharing that awkwardness with the world.

Talking To Students About Homosexuality;


Helping Parents Trust Your School

woodleywonderworks-thelearningprocess6 Resources For Building Parental Engagement: Helping Parents Trust Your School 

contributed by Alison Anderson,

Parent engagement has always been a very bright spot on my radar when thinking about keys to success for schools.

Lately, it feels important to distinguish between parent engagement and parent involvement. Both are important and something every school should strive for in order to create the most healthy student environment. But involvement, to me, can mean volunteering and spending time in the school and classroom- building those schools that have an instant sense of positive energy you sense the minute you walk in the school.

Today’s world is complicated – especially as technology continues to disrupt the different fields we have grown so used to living in. We can’t ignore that social media has completely transformed the way in which we receive and understand current events.  As this disruption starts to happen in our schools, we need to fully engage parents so that they not only understand, but feel absolutely comfortable with all the school practices and policies.

How do you achieve that? With transparent communication and lots of it! Every school has a story, or a “brand” that captures the mission, the norms, the traditions and the values of the school population.

As a school leader, communicating that “brand” is one of the most important jobs. But building a school “brand” is not like building a product. It’s not always easy and the steps are not always clear. There are some helpful resources emerging for administrators and edleaders who want to do this and do it right.

6 Resources For Building Parental Engagement

The more stories shared about what is happening within your school, the better your “big picture” becomes for school and community families. Schools build their brand when they share the stories that answer, “why do you send your child to that school?” That’s how a good reputation gets built. Parents and community members trust in their school “brand” and want to support school decision makers.

Alison Anderson is a former teacher, tech integrator and now education blog editor. She is active an active member of the EdCampPDX planning team and continually focused on working to improve education for students in Portland and beyond; 6 Resources For Building Parental Engagement: Helping Parents Trust Your School; image attribution flickr user woodleywonderworks


Kindness Is Something Students Learn By Feeling It

horizontal-integrationKindness Is Something Students Learn By Feeling It

by Lisa CurrieRipple Kindness Project

Most people have heard the phrase ‘random acts of kindness’, which refers to a selfless act of giving resulting in the happiness of another person. Terms like this are increasing in popularity around the world, as more people identify a deficiency in their lives that can only be fulfilled by altruism.  

It seems we just can’t get enough of those addictive feel good emotions and with good reason.

Scientific studies have shown that kindness has a great number of physical and emotional benefits, and that children require a healthy dose of the warm and fuzzies in order to flourish as health, happy, well-rounded individuals.

Patty O’Grady, PhD, is an expert in the area of neuroscience, emotional learning, and positive psychology with special attention to the educational arena. She believes that “kindness changes the brain by the experience of kindness. Children and adolescents do not learn kindness by only thinking about it and talking about it. Kindness is best learned by feeling it so that they can reproduce it. Kindness is an emotion that students feel and empathy is a strength that they share.”

A great number of benefits have been reported to support the theory of teaching kindness in schools.

8 Reasons For Teaching Kindness In School

1. Happy Children

Science explains that the good feelings we experience when being kind are produced by endorphins that activate areas of the brain that are associated with pleasure, social connection and trust, and it’s proven that these feelings of joyfulness are contagious, encouraging more kind behaviour by the giver and recipient.

2. Increased Peer Acceptance  

Research on the subject has determined that kindness increases our ability to form meaningful connections with others. Studies show that kind, happy children enjoy greater peer acceptance because they are well-liked and that better than average mental health is reported in classrooms that practice more inclusive behaviour due to an even distribution of popularity.

3. Improved Health and Less Stress  

It’s widely documented that being kind can trigger a release of the hormone oxytocin which has a number of physical and mental health benefits as it can significantly increase a person’s level of happiness and reduce stress. More recently though, it’s been found it plays a significant role in the cardiovascular system, helping protect the heart by lowering blood pressure and reducing free radicals and inflammation, which incidentally speed up the aging process.

4. Greater Sense of Belonging and Improved Self Esteem

Studies show that people experience a ‘helpers high’ when they do a good deed, a rush of endorphins that creates a lasting sense of pride, well-being and an enriched sense of belonging. Even small acts of kindness are reported to heighten our sense of well-being, increase energy and give a wonderful feeling of optimism and self worth.

5. Increased Feelings of Gratitude

When children are part of projects that help others less fortunate than themselves, it provides them with a real sense of perspective and helps them appreciate the good things in their own lives.

6. Better Concentration and Improved Results

As it increases serotonin, which plays an important part in learning, memory, mood, sleep, health and digestion, kindness is a key ingredient that helps children feel good. Having a positive outlook allows them greater attentions spans and enables more creative thinking to produce better results at school.

7. Less Bullying

Two Penn State Harrisburg faculty researchers, Shanetia Clark and Barbara Marinak say, “unlike previous generations, today’s adolescents are victimizing each other at alarming rates.” They argue adolescent bullying and youth violence can be confronted through in-school programs that integrate “kindness — the antithesis of victimization.”

Many traditional anti-bullying programs focus on the negative actions that cause children anxiety and often with little impact. Teaching kindness and compassion in schools, not only fosters the positive behaviour that creates warm and inclusive school environments, but helps children feel that they belong. It’s documented that the effects of bullying can be significantly reduced by integrating kindness based programs in schools.

8. Reduced Depression

Dr. Wayne Dyer, internationally renowned author and speaker, says research has discovered that an act of kindness increases levels of serotonin (a natural chemical responsible for improving mood) in the brain. It’s also found that serotonin levels are increased in both the giver and receiver of an act of kindness, as well as anyone who witnesses that kindness, making it a wonderful natural antidepressant.


Maurice Elias, a professor at Rutgers University Psychology Department says that “as a citizen, grandparent, father, and professional, it is clear to me that the mission of schools must include teaching kindness. Without it, communities, families, schools, and classrooms become places of incivility where lasting learning is unlikely to take place.

We need to be prepared to teach kindness, because it can be delayed due to maltreatment early in life. It can be smothered under the weight of poverty, and it can be derailed by victimization later in life. Yet despite these and other travails, the receipt of kindness and the ability to show kindness through service are both growth enhancing and soul cleansing.

Kindness can be taught, and it is a defining aspect of civilized human life. It belongs in every home, school, neighborhood, and society.”

It’s become quite clear that modern education must encompass more than just academics, that in order for children to develop into happy, confident, well-rounded individuals, matters of the heart must be taken seriously and nurtured as a matter of priority.

Lisa Currie is the founder of Ripple Kindness Project, a community program and school curriculum that aims to improve social, emotional and mental health, and reduce bullying in schools through kindness. The ongoing, whole school primary curriculum, teaches children about their emotions and the impact their words and actions have on others, and provides opportunities for them to notice and show kindness in everyday situations. Find out more at; image attribution flickr user horiztonalintegration; 8 Reasons For Teaching Kindness In School



The Science Of Character: 6 Categories & 24 Traits

The Science Of Character: 6 Categories & 24 Traits

What is character?

What kinds of ideas and related characteristics do we associate with it?

What contributes to its development? Can certain attributes be cultivated?

How can we bring a little science to such an abstract idea?

These are the ideas behind an upcoming film by Tiffany Shlain that seeks to clarify the idea. In the graphic below, there are six overarching descriptors offered: Wisdom, Creativity, Curiosity, Love of Learning, Perspective, and Courage. It then offers indicators–or components–for each.

periodic-table-of-character-strengths-fi6 Categories & 24 Traits

1. Wisdom



Love of Learning


2. Courage





3. Humanity



Social Intelligence

4. Justice

Social Responsibility




5. Temperance





6. Transcendence

Appreciation Of Beauty





Further Reading

The press release also indicates that “in addition to free customized versions of the film, Let it Ripple and partners like Common Sense Media will offer a list of films, games, and apps to strength particular character strengths, a free Discussion Guide, a character strengths survey, and resource guide. #CharacterDay will also feature online discussions led by experts in all time zones featuring leaders in education and character development.”

You can

The Science Of Character: 6 Categories & 24 Traits


14 Lesson Plans For Teaching Financial Literacy

hrdollarsandsense-financial-literacy14 Lesson Plans For Teaching Financial Literacy

by TeachThought Staff

1. Ruth Gale-Paredez: “What education do you need to live comfortably?”
Fifth-grade students figure out how much it costs to live for a family of four. The survey is taken for all expenses including taxes and insurance and an amount of income is calculated. Then a career is chosen to meet their needs and wants.

Ed note: Note, we’ve noticed that almost all of the links from this 2013 post are now broken. We will update it ASAP with current links.

14 Lesson Plans For Teaching Financial Literacy


Moving The Conversation From Bullying To Climate

from-bullying-to-climateFocusing On Bullying Misses The Point: Moving The Conversation From Bullying To Climate

See parts 1-3 in this series, PD Sucks. Is Edcamp the Solution?Pairing Teachers for Better Professional Development and Hacking Your Classroom

by Dawn Casey-Rowe, Social Studies Teacher & Learnist Evangelist

I don’t love the word “bully.”

I sometimes feel it’s become an educational buzzword, losing much of its power in the same way as the word (phrase?) “X-treme.” X-treme used to mean something. It was created for the X-Games, which had alternative athletes doing insane things. “X-treme” meant I got to watch street luges careen down Providence’s College Hill into bales of hay at a million miles an hour before San Francisco stole the games away. But when “x-treme” started describing tubes of toothpaste, it lost its charm for me.

And for me, the word “bullying” is kind of heading the same way.

I prefer to use the words “creating a positive climate.” Our choice of words matters. When we focus on negativity, we key in on negative behaviors, such as bullying and inappropriateness. Flipping our conceptualization from “anti-bullying,” to “creating a positive climate” puts us in the right mindset to recognize those doing the right thing who often get overlooked.

Sometimes schools do everything they can to create a positive climate, and there are still people who bring others down. We talk about “bullying” quite often in schools. True bullying is about power brokering and self-esteem. There are many types of bullying about which you might not be aware. We always think of the kid who steals lunch money, but bullying can be subtle, manipulative.

I used to teach anti-bullying as part of my martial arts program. First I’d ask kids if they were bullies. They’d say no. Then, I’d ask them if they ever threw a fit in the store because they didn’t get what they want, knowing this would manipulate their embarrassed parent into buying it. Many said yes. This is bullying–and this is not creating a positive climate in the home.

Often, adults bully other adults as well. Seth Godin wrote recently that this causes time to be lost, good people to leave, and employees, who often feel powerless, to dislike work. Godin called it “theft,” suggesting that stealing time or productivity was no different than stealing an object.

Because many people are unaware of the nuances of this issue, and how much of a challenge it can be to create a positive climate, professional development can help. It can helps us to identify areas of negativity and to realize how we can be assertive ourselves in refusing to accept less than professional and perfect behavior at school and work so we can be agents of positivity.

Creating a positive climate allows an organization to thrive and reach its full potential. PD can help. By having open and honest conversations, we can bring “positive” to the top of our “must-do” list and in so doing, the rest of the things we want to achieve will come along for the ride.

This week’s Learnist feature looks for ways we can use Professional Development to change the climate at your school, to look for the positive, create a more cohesive school family, and follow up to ensure that it stays that way. Please click the link to join the conversation or offer your suggestions directly on Learnist, comment here, or join the conversation on Twitter by following @LearnistTweets or @TeachThought.

Better Professional Development: 5 Ways To Improve Your School Climate

1. Use Positive Behavior Intervention & Supports

Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports is a data-driven way to encourage positive behavior by creating positive targets and reinforcing them with rewards. You’ll need to dedicate continual PD to PBIS, because it is sometimes seen as simply giving rewards to students, and nothing can be further from the truth. It is not a system of Scooby snacks, it is an organizational change.

Any organization that thinks “creating a positive climate” is about adults giving rewards to students may benefit from some PD on PBIS. Creating a positive climate takes hard work, showing that showing respect and being positive create a cycle, not a top-down initiative. Eventually, the cycle self-perpetuates.

If you dedicate some PD to PBIS and commit to analyze the data, you’ll see great things in your school.

2. Include Everyone

Schools can feel like feudal hierarchies whereby the educational leadership are the lords, teachers are the vassals and support staff and students are the serfs. Change this immediately! Have PD, school activities and school mixers and meals where all members of the school family meet on an equal playing field and interact.

It could be as simple as changing some “faculty meetings” to “staff meetings,” inviting all school personnel to discuss school improvement and opportunities, and making sure that there’s something on the agenda for every group to address. PD could include meetings with students on the subject of school policies or curricula. Maintenance staff might agree to do a PD session on “Green Schools,” and help with a recycling initiative.

There are so many ways to “mix it up” and create areas for everyone to benefit from each other. This will go a long way to accomplishing the goal of creating a positive school.

3. Create Down Time

Don’t just have a holiday party, have a series of events where people grab a beverage and interact off the clock. Again, make sure to include everyone from the boss to the support staff. When we leave groups out, we create stratification. This is the opposite of what we’re trying to accomplish creating schools that run like clockwork.

4. Do Good

Social philanthropy brings people together. Try to pick causes that connect to the things that the school values and are helpful at the same time. Make sure to really make all members of the school family know that their pulling together has helped in some significant way.

5. Follow Up

From time to time, have some sort of PD brush up that involves the inner circle of people directing climate-building initiatives, and with the staff or school as a whole, outlining the progress the school has made. This is important because the best PD is never a one-shot deal. It is continual, and reaches a little bit higher every time, like walking up a mountain one step at a time. Without that constant follow up and touching base on these issues, the initiatives don’t seem important and they fade into the sunset. School climate is too important to let that happen. The best of relationships need constant input and work from people on all sides.

This week’s Learnist feature is about creating a positive climate in schools and creating the PD framework to do so, so that hopefully, you don’t have to hear the “b” word (bullying) much more.

Moving The Conversation From Bullying To Climate; image attribution flickr user nasagoddardphotoandvideo


What A 4 Year-Old’s Bucket List Looks Like

a-childs-bucket-listWhat A 4 Year-Old’s Bucket List Looks Like

What’s on your bucket list?

Publishing a book? Seeing your child’s wedding? Climbing Mount Everest? Starting your own school?

How about drinking clean water?

Seeing the ocean, kissing a girl, or flying in an airplane? For 4 year-old Nkaitole those things–and, oh yeah, clean water–were up there on the list, as this video showcases.

The video’s producer TheGiftofWater wrote in the comments section that, as a result of the project the video is a part of, “his entire village and three other villages around his, all got a point of use, bucket water purification system for each home. In Oct. Nkaitole’s village will have a well drilled so they have a constant source of clean water.”

You can see this video and more like it on their YouTube channel.


The Factors That Impact The Learning Curve Of English-Language Learners

zaps06The Factors That Impact The Learning Curve Of English-Language Learners

by Marc Anderson, CEO

Let’s face it. Some students learn a second language more quickly and easily than others. Some learners show more determination. Some work harder. Some are more persistent. But there are other factors that influence language learning. These all play a role in the speed and acquisition of the new language.

Factor #1 Age

Children who have literacy skills in their native language seem to be able to acquire other languages easily. Older learners can be successful, too, with the right type of inner motivation, but they generally do not achieve the native-speaking pronunciation and intonation that younger children naturally do.

Factor #2 Personality

More outgoing students who don’t worry too much about mistakes and are more willing to take risks seem to do better. They get more practice, are more immersed with native speakers, and gain more confidence.  Introverted or anxious learners tend to make slower progress, most noticeably in their oral language skills.

Factor #3 Motivation

Whether intrinsic or extrinsic in nature, motivation plays a significant role with language achievement. If a student enjoys the language and learning or does well in this area of study, he/she will continue to excel.

Additionally, if the language is needed to further a certain goal (acceptance at a desired university, career goal, speaking to relatives, etc.) then those students will make greater efforts to learn the language and in turn, they will make quicker progress. Those students who are encouraged by their teachers and families and those students in environments that encourage education, learning and languages make more progress.

Factor #4 Experiences

Any student who has lived in other countries and/or has been exposed to travel, diverse cultures, and languages has a stronger base for learning. Students who might have a pen pal, opportunities to Skype or interface with native speakers, and those who have English-speaking friends will learn more easily.

Factor #5 Native Language

Students who are learning a second language which happens to be from the same language family and may even use the same alphabet system and many of the phonetic sounds as their native language are apt to have an easier time.

Factor #6 General Aptitude/Cognitive Abilities

Students with greater aptitude and cognitive abilities will learn faster. They can grasp language patterns and structure more easily. They acquire new vocabulary words quicker and are more fluent speakers and writers of their new language.

Factor #7 Curriculum and Instruction

Allowing the students to gain language from all curricular areas is key to language success. To keep a child out of regular mainstream classes because their language level is beneath the level of instruction does not afford the student the opportunity to be exposed to content rich areas and native speakers commensurate to their age. Teachers who naturally differentiate content and provide needed language support help contribute greatly to these children’s linguistic development.

Perhaps not everyone can be a “Juano” when it comes to learning language, but we can do our part as educators to help all ESL students learn to their abilities. We can motivate, offer experiences, teach content rich curriculum, and differentiate learning for our students. These are the factors we as teachers can bring to guarantee success for all of our ESL students.

Image attribution flickr user zaps06; The Factors That Impact The Learning Curve Of English-Language Learners