Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The price of 'PERFECT'

I recently re-posted an article on my school blog, and thought I would post it here too...after a rather long hiatus from this blog! 

In an article that appeared in KQED’s Mind/Shift, Holly Korbey (August 12, 2015) discusses the lessons that students lose in their strive for perfection...

What Do Students Lose By Being Perfect? Valuable Failure…  

Illustration: https://goo.gl/2LhvVe 

In the first pages of Being Wrong, Kathryn Schulz writes, “In our collective imagination, error is associated not just with shame and stupidity but also with ignorance, indolence, psychopathology, and moral degeneracy.” This cultural terror of messing up, combined with modern modes of parenting and schooling obsessed with narrow versions of academic and career “success,” are making students more than risk-averse.

Books like How to Raise an Adult and Teach Your Children Well say kids are coming to college “underconstructed,” at best unsure of who they are and where they fit, at worst anxious and depressed, because their parents have protected them from the uncomfortable and unacceptable state of being wrong. Focused on getting the grades or winning the game and excused from helping out around the house, these children have internalized the pressure, and it’s morphed into a monster that paralyzes kids in their ability to take risks, screw up, find out the consequences and learn from their mistakes.

Parent and educator Jessica Lahey, author of the new book The Gift of Failure, wants parents (and teachers) to back off. She said it’s time for adults to do the responsible thing and let the children fail. Trying something and failing, she writes, is how children learn and make discoveries about themselves and the world around them. This applies to unloading the dishwasher as well as the science fair. Becoming autonomous gives children pride in themselves and their abilities, and makes them independent thinkers and doers who can cope with the ups and downs of life.

Stop bringing forgotten homework to school, Lahey tells the parents of her students.

Cartoon: https://goo.gl/NxeFAs
But it will be messy, and adults should expect as much. To Lahey’s credit, The Gift of Failure defiantly rejects the binary choices of either “triumphant or bumbling adulthood” as end goals, and sees growing up as a series of peaks and valleys with lots of time to figure things out in between. Instead, she offers practical advice, steeped in the latest research, on how to let kids find their own way as parents and teachers guide them, the key word being guide — not instruct, dictate, or enable. Giving kids autonomy may or may not make them a big “success,” but the research supports that it will make kids happier, less anxious and depressed, and more fulfilled to work towards agency in their own lives.
Lahey taught middle school for more than a dozen years, and said that in that period of time, she watched as kids went from cautious to take risks to too terrified to even make a move — write a sentence, for example — without considering what people might think or how it would affect their grade.

“The thing I began to notice was not the fear of an ‘F’, it was the fear of any mistake,” she said. “It’s not that students couldn’t get to a final draft, they couldn’t get even their ideas down. From a teacher’s point of view, that’s a nightmare! If they can’t take a risk, then certainly they aren’t raising their hand with an I-wanna-try-this-idea-out kind of thing.”

Many educators already know this, but what to do about it? Educators can play a crucial part in helping kids to get comfortable with failure, which Lahey calls “autonomy-supportive teaching” and goes hand-in-hand with “autonomy-supportive parenting.” She says there are ways educators can encourage parents to let go, and here are a few:

Encourage parents to think of raising a child as a long-haul job

Stop bringing forgotten homework to school, Lahey tells the parents of her students. And stop stressing over how your daughter will do on next week’s quiz: instead, focus on what your daughter can learn if she does it all herself, without nagging and pestering and pressure. If she does indeed fail the quiz, she may be forced to ask herself what went wrong, and what she could do better next time. Parenting is a long-haul job, Lahey says, and parents and teachers need to think more about what’s going to make kids happy in the long term. In the case of the quiz, the short-term goal is getting an ‘A,’ but the long-term goal of self-sufficiency eclipses that minor ‘A’ by a long shot.

“It’s so freeing!” she said. “You can stop worrying about the stupid details of the moment-to-moment junk, and start focusing on the big things. Just think about where your kid was one year ago today. They’re amazing!” Lahey said she’s not sure if adults just forget, or worry that’s not true. She suspects, though, that parents don’t see the amazing growth in kids because they aren’t given the opportunity to show it very often.

Focus on Process Instead of Product

Lahey confesses this is a tricky balance, especially since schools today are inherently — almost obsessively — focused on product (and may inadvertently be contributing to parents’ anxieties over academic success). But there are ways to get around that, she says.

Adjust expectations (and grades) to make room for real student work. In the book, Lahey asks a kindergarten teacher what her kids can do that their parents don’t think they can. She responds: “Everything!” In autonomy-supportive teaching, work that students plan and orchestrate themselves will look like — well, like a kid did it. That means no more science projects worthy of their own Nobel. “Teachers need to move their expectations as well. Our lines for where grades should be have creeped up anyway, based on our expectations for what the product should look like. Our expectations have been skewed by the work of the parents.” 
Illustration: https://goo.gl/xAPU9J 
Lahey knows that teachers love to hear that a parent has decided to make the child more responsible for his own learning: “If you tell your teacher you’re making the move to more autonomy-supportive parenting, and to please hold your child to consequences without letting the kid off the hook? If you ask the teacher to help you through this — that this is the only way your child is going to learn? Just knowing when a parent is interested in supporting a student’s voice and ability to speak up for themselves: a teacher will kiss you on the lips for that!”

Back away from the parent portal

One of the biggest pitfalls to autonomy-supportive parenting, Lahey says, are the parent portal websites, with access to up-to-the-minute feedback about scores and grades. Lahey and her husband decided to forgo the parent portal for their older child. They handed the password over to their son, telling him he’d need to let them know if he was in academic trouble. Some of her friends were shocked, “as if we were defaulting on our parental duty,” she writes. “I disagree. Checking in on children’s grades is a type of surveillance, which is one of the forms of control and is often mentioned in the research as an enemy of autonomy and intrinsic motivation.”

For parents who decide to forgo the parent portal (or only check it occasionally), Lahey recommends sending a note to teachers about the decision, explaining that your student is now responsible for her own communication information.

Consider the Fear of Failure May Affect More Kids Than You Think

Some educators have called out the rash of overparenting books as only written for a few upper-class parents; some have called The Overstressed American Child “a myth.” Many students are well-acquainted with failure, both their own personal shortcomings as well as the systemic failures of their schools and homes. While Lahey openly admits that The Gift of Failure doesn’t apply to everyone, she cautions that it’s not just the 1% who are terrified of their kids failing: “What I did find out by talking to teachers, is that it’s far more pervasive than we thought,” Lahey said. “We’re talking about a big chunk, a lot of middle class kids are getting the same kind of pressure,” as kids at the top. Many times, she said, the pressure’s even greater if a family doesn’t have the means to pay for college — especially when it comes to sports and scholarships.

Fear of failure destroys the love of learning

In chapter 2, Lahey relates the story of one of her students, capable and intelligent Marianna, who has “sacrificed her natural curiosity and and love of learning at the altar of achievement, and it’s our fault.”
We taught her that her potential is tied to her intellect, and her intellect is more important than her character. We taught her to protect her academic and extracurricular perfection at all costs and that it’s better to quit when things get challenging rather than risk marring that perfection. Above all else, we have taught her to fear failure, and that fear has destroyed her love of learning.

And this is the real shame: fear of failure taints the waters of learning, keeping kids from taking risks. Making failure normal — even celebrated — Lahey contends, may be uncomfortable in the short-term, but in the long haul makes for happier, more confident kids.

Photo: https://goo.gl/8w4ym2 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sensory Processing and/or ADHD?


Following a recent workshop I attended regarding the influence of Sensory Processing on learning, I found some awesome resources on the topic which I thought I'd share:

How Sensory Processing affects kids in school

 - Often what can look like ADHD can actually involve sensory processing concerns...not to say there may not be ADHD symptoms involved as well. It still remains important to gain a complete picture of the child's symptoms - from the assessment-, teachers' classroom-, and parents' observations.

The difference between Sensory Processing Issues and ADHD

 - Some important differences between the symptoms linked with the two experiences, as well as accessible support structures to try out.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

AD/HD and ADD management research

I have recently been researching the various methods of approaching AD/HD and ADD management, and the following articles caught my eye. Well worth a read!

Investigating the merits of banting for children (I tweeted about this article earlier this week) - written by the editor of The Lifestyle Cafe

* Reports from the Low Carbohydrate High Fat (LCHF) 2015 Conference - discussion by Nicky Perks

*The Diet Factor in ADHD - Article by Millichap and Yee as published in Pediatrics Journal of America. Interesting merits of supplements, which caught my eye after just having watched That Vitamin Film (If you haven't seen it, it's well worth a watch!)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Authenticity speciality

I was recently approached by Webucator to write about the most important marketable skill that is required for graduates in search of their first job after studies, and it made me reflect on my own experiences in job interviews. I can remember attempting to predict what employers would want in an employee, which conjured up images of a cookie-cutter clone of the ‘perfect worker’. Perhaps this conceptualisation filters down from as far back as expectations of work from the Industrial Revolution (thanks, first-year Psychology); just as products moved along a prediactable assembly line, employees were expected to “fit in or ship out.”

I was recently on the opposite side of the table – part of an interviewing team gathered to meet potential facilitators who would take over my role next year as I embrace my Educational Psychology internship in 2015. A facilitator’s role is to work alongside the teacher in the classroom to assist a learner (usually in a one-to-one scenario) in whatever manner is appropriate to the learner’s specific need, and as such it is fairly important to ensure that the facilitator is a good match for the child, the teacher, as well as the classroom and school environment. Before the candidates arrived, we spoke about what ‘type’ of facilitator the group had in mind. My role in this meeting was to describe the facilitation scenario with the lovely little boy whom I had helped to support this year, and to share some of the strategies that I had used when facilitating. What really struck me was how our idea of a ‘type’ of candidate appeared to dissipate as we met the various potential facilitators. It became obvious that each one brought various skills and challenges to the table, and although it was the combination of these that influenced our opinion of their suitability for the position, it was the energy and sincerity with which the candidates expressed their skills and challenges that really stood out. It was the candidates who were able to genuinely express their passion for education and children in an authentic way that caught our attention – especially in the stories that they told of personal experiences. 

The very first candidate was a young woman who did not have as much experience in education as some of the other candidates, but she impressed with her authentic manner in which she conveyed her experiences; both the shining and learning opportunities. She had put together a really personal CV and cover letter, which showed that she had considered the requirements of the position as well as the environment in which she would be working. She made sure that her personality shone through, and it was this authenticity that really won us over. She didn’t attempt to conform to the ‘perfect candidate’ stereotype – she presented herself as an authentic version of herself.

In essence, after this experience I would say that the best marketable skill that a graduate could portray is the ability to convey oneself in an authentic manner. In this way, your employer is afforded a snapshot of how you would conduct yourself in your job, and is able to make a realistic decision of your suitability for the position. As such, my vote would go to the candidate who is authentic – not a real-life clone of the ‘perfect worker.’

Wednesday, September 10, 2014



I ABSOLUTELY love this site! Such a simple, easy-to-use format for online class communication that can be controlled and recorded by the teacher. It is as simple as:

  1. Creating a name for your room
  2. Indicating for how long the room must stay open
  3. Open the room
  4. Insert your name
  5. Share the room name with your class! Once they are in the room, they can add their name and start commenting. 
Once the time is up, the room is locked. There is even a function for transcribing the information. I really wish I had thought to use this site for online focus groups for my thesis research! They say hindsight is 20/20 vision!

Ditchthattextbook.com have come up with an awesome list of 20 uses for TodaysMeet.

For what further functions do you think this site would be useful?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

What's the best device for interactive learning?

Hi everyone!

I feel that I've neglected my 'techy' passion for ages now. My thesis has clearly taken attention away researching new developments in educational technology. Luckily, my research brought me back full circle! I discovered a great article which helped delineate the laptop vs. tablet debate rather nicely. 

Here's the link: What's the best device for interactive learning?

This has been a question of mine for ages now: How do schools choose, amid the plethora of choices, the best device(s) to use in their classrooms? 

I liked David Mahaley's answer (Franklin Academy, North Carolina) in this article: "First you have to ask: What do you want the device to do for your children?" I see lots of teachers blindly adopting technology into the classroom, without asking this question. Sometimes it may not be appropriate to use technology at all...it depends on the requirements of the task - what you, as teacher, would like for your learners to experience.

Enjoy the read! I'd love to hear your thoughts :)


Monday, June 23, 2014

More student blogs!

Hi everyone!

I haven't blogged for a while, but my new crop of student teachers have started to create their own blogs,so I thought it was high time that I looked at my blog again! Things have been so busy, but I realised that one must simply make time for those things that you enjoy! Hence, here I am!

I have designed a short course for Stellenbosch University called Digital Literacy Short Course, specifically targeting new teachers who are in the BEd faculty of Stellenbosch University. The course consists of 5 modules; Going Digital (which introduces new teachers to digital literacy and educational technology, as well as to consider how teaching and learning differs in the 21st century), Presentations (an introduction into various interactive, visual and audio presentation formats that teachers could use in their classrooms), Information Surfing (for both teachers' and learners' academic information pursuits, as well as for teachers to access the plethora of teaching resources available on the net), Going Google (a taster of what Google in Education can offer to teachers), as well as Application and Reflection (how one can use the tools learnt in the classroom, and for various levels of resource availability).

The course is scheduled to run twice this year. We have just run the first component of the June opportunity - a 20 hour workshop, to be followed by 40 hours of self-study and assessment submission to be completed by the students. The October opportunity will run slightly differently -     5 x Thursday morning contact sessions in the month of October, with 40 hours of self-study and assessments to complete in the time between the contact sessions. Both of these opportunities are pilot studies - should they be well-received, we hope to incorporate them into the BEd and PGCE courses.

Below are the June opportunity student blogs:

We even had a Marketing student join us - her blog can be found at Marketing Mania

I really applaud my students' efforts to venture into a completely new (and often scary!) adventure of blogging! So much of blogging is playing around and learning the various features and opportunities that the various blogging platforms afford. All of the best, ladies! I look forward to reading of your exciting discoveries!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Education 3.0

I love the concept of Education 3.0!

Education 1.0 - Substitution-Augmentation: Knowledge is passed form teacher to learners.Technology may be used to merely capture the information or present it for the teacher to mark *Receiving, Responding, Regurgitating*

Education 2.0 - Modification: Teacher- learners-peers interactivity begins *Communication, Contribution, Collaboration*

Education 3.0 - Redefinition: Content is freely available and shareable *Connectors, Creators, Constructivists*

Excellent ideas for getting learners to engage in using different technology and learning.

Thank you, eLearning Infographics!

Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

The Innovation of Education

I love this Infographic - a history lesson and guideline to becoming more technologically savvy all in one go!

Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Teacher Agency

It would seem that it is not only learners who feel the effects of learned helplessness and growth fixed mindsets - teachers, under the pressure of contemporary teaching, succumb to such phenomena too. Jackie Gerstein explores this phenomenon in her blog User Generated Education.