Author Archives: Ari

Who’s Sleeping the Most and Least in America?

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Now’s the time when students of all ages are cramming for end-of-year exams through the wee hours. But it’s not just students sleeping poorly—and it’s not just in May. A health problem that’s been building in America for some time, insufficient sleep was classified as a public health epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2016—and continues to be a pain point.

Sleep in American Communities

Now that the American Communities Project is bringing its lens to the 2018 County Health Rankings, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation program, the ever-present problem comes into sharper relief. ACP found that insufficient sleep is an issue in all 15 community types, but it is a matter of degree.

One group stands out for being particularly sleep deprived: the African American South, often found in more rural areas from Virginia through Texas, where African Americans can make up more than 40 percent of the population and the median household income is at the lowest level of all types. Here the insufficient sleep average jumps to 38 percent. These counties show more evidence of other health problems laid out in the rankings, including high rates of obesity (35 percent) and physical inactivity (31 percent). Among the community types, it also ranks highest in income inequality, signaling socioeconomic distress.

On the other end of the scale are more homogenous places. The sharpest example occurs in Aging Farmlands, where the insufficient sleep rate drops to 27 percent. These counties in the Great Plains are home to about 576,000 people, 92 percent of which live in rural areas. They tend to be the oldest and least racially and ethnically diverse places in America, with more than a quarter over age 62 and 96 percent white. A slower, quieter life without work stress may contribute to better sleeping patterns. Graying America—where nearly a quarter of the population is 62 and older, and there’s also less diversity than the nation writ large—the rate holds at 31 percent on average. For that matter, Rural Middle America, where nearly 22 million people live, clocks in at 31 percent as well. These counties are a bit wealthier, more rural, and less diverse on average.

Sleep deprivation is slightly less prevalent in LDS Enclaves at 29 percent. Since the early 2000s, the Mormon Church has devoted some attention in its publications to the importance of sleep and rest.

Aside from LDS Enclaves and Aging Farmlands, the percentage of people in American communities not getting enough sleep remains above 30 percent on average—underscoring that the problem is justified to merit national attention. In fact, many different kinds of communities hover around the one-third figure. In the affluent Exurbs, 33 percent of residents on average report an insufficient amount of sleep. Hispanic Centers and College Towns, both of which have high percentages of youth, stand at 32 percent. Working Class CountryNative American LandsBig Cities, and Urban Suburbs are at 34 percent.

Why Sleep Matters

Since 2016, the County Health Rankings have included insufficient sleep in a host of measures about one’s life quality and length. The report cites many reasons:

  • “Sleep plays a key role in maintaining proper growth and repair of the body, learning, memory, emotional resilience, problem solving, decision making, and emotional control.
  • Ongoing sleep deficiency has been linked to heart disease, depression and anxiety, risky behavior, and suicide.
  • A lack of sleep can also affect others’ health. Sleepiness, especially while driving, can lead to motor vehicle crashes.”

To obtain a measure, the rankings incorporate a key question from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey: “On average, how many hours of sleep do you get in a 24-hour period? Think about the time you actually spend sleeping or napping, not just the amount of sleep you think you should get.”

Insufficient sleep translates to the percentage of adults who respond that they get less than seven hours of zzzz a night on average. In 2016, about one third of adults reported getting insufficient sleep. In some counties, it was almost one in two residents.

That same year Arianna Huffington’s The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life One Night at a Time debuted and became a national best-seller. In it, she describes collapsing from exhaustion in 2007.

A Call for More Inclusive, Empathetic Leadership

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Today’s independent school leaders are grappling with a number of daunting developments: more competition on the educational landscape, expanding demographic diversity, divisive politics, the rise of Millennial parents and workers, the retirement of Baby Boomers, the question of college’s value, the excitement of social media, and the hopes and fears of artificial intelligence.

The confluence of these global trends has spurred an urgency to redefine independent school leadership to espouse greater inclusion and empathy. To begin to achieve that, NAIS convened a group of independent school educators, academics, and thought leaders for a leadership summit at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore on October 2021, 2016. (See list of attendees.)

Limited Diversity of Leaders Nationally

The lack of diversity and inclusion in leadership was on full display as attendees addressed the limited number of women and people of color in leadership posts. Across industries, women continue to hold positions with less prestige, less power, and less pay, said Catherine Hill, vice president for research at the American Association of University Women. She cited the following statistics:
  • In public schools, women make up 76 percent of teachers and 20 percent of superintendents.
  • In the nonprofit sector, 75 percent of nonprofit professionals are women, and just 43 percent are nonprofit chief executives.
  • In the private sector, white men hold 63 percent of top leadership posts, white women hold 24 percent, black women occupy 2 percent, and Hispanic women account for 1 percent.
  • In government, U.S. state legislators are 75 percent men and 25 percent women, including 5 percent women of color.
Hill noted that several factors explain the leadership gender gap: caregiving demands and women’s choices, the gender pay gap, the lack of networks and mentors for women, and implicit and explicit bias and discrimination against women in the workplace.

Challenges in Independent Schools

The independent school sector mirrors these national trends. The percent of female heads at NAIS schools has hovered around one-third for the past 16 years. The percent of heads of color has ticked up from 3 percent in 2000-2001 to 7 percent in 20152016.
NAIS conducted a study to understand the dynamics of the recruiting process that aid or hinder the hiring of women and people of color for headship positions, said NAIS vice presidents Amada Torres and Caroline Blackwell in their presentation to the group. The study included women and people of color who were potential headship candidates as well as search firms and search committees.
A confidence gap between men and women was evident. Sixty-six percent of men of color said they are highly confident in their ability to become head of school compared with 43 percent of women of color and 43 percent of white women who said the same.
In the headship hiring process, there’s a noticeable disconnect between the qualities that search firms and committees seek and what professional women and people of color believe they’re seeking. For example, candidates said they thought experience at a similar school was the least important qualification; search firms valued this highly. Similarly, candidates believed that prior experience as head does not rank as high as search firms and search committees place this work history. Furthermore, the leadership experiences of business officers, admission officers, and diversity practitioners are undervalued. Many of these positions are occupied by women and people of color.

Ideas for an Inclusive Pool

Attendees discussed more expansive models of leadership to turn the tide to parity. Women and people of color say mentors, sponsors, and professional development can make a difference in their advancement. In particular, NAIS survey respondents said they wish for PD opportunities that improve their leadership skills.
It’s crucial to approach leadership development with an eye toward equity and racial justice, said Joe-Joe McManus, executive director of Rootstrong, a nonprofit that focuses on multicultural leadership education and development based on four global principles: human rights, social justice, diversity, and integrity.
He advocated the CUNY Star leadership education model, known for its cultural relevance and responsiveness. Competencies include professional excellence, self-knowledge, identity development, cultural competency, contextual literacy, civic engagement, work-life balance, community building, critical engagement, applied ethics, and dynamic balance. He noted that the aspects of these competencies can shift depending on location, and cited self-knowledge as an example because it is so individual.
While instituting a multicultural model, we must also navigate the existence of privileged fragility, McManus said. This applies to people who are advantaged members of racial and other systems of privilege/oppression. Such fragility is triggered by any loss of privilege or feeling of any stress related to one’s privileged status, and can manifest as anger, disengagement, fear, guilt, and white tears.
These challenges notwithstanding, cultivating a wider range of leaders was a running topic at the summit. The Center of Creative Leadership (CCL) aims to develop leaders at all levels and positively impact communities, said CCL Senior Faculty and Faculty Development Director Marin Burton. To do this, CCL employs the framework of leading self, leading with others, and changing your world. “Leadership is an inside-out process that begins with knowing yourself,” Burton said. The framework takes different forms in different grades. Kindergarteners learn to keep their hands to themselves. Middle schoolers practice working through conflicts. High schoolers learn to be intentional when choosing an internship. (Listen to a podcast between NAIS and CCL.)
In an example of CCL’s joint work with Ravenscroft School (North Carolina), Colleen Ramsden, assistant head of school for academic affairs, shared how the school’s Lead From Here program has transformed its young students into leaders. She relayed a story of a group of fifth-grade boys who befriended a new student, but were concerned that their new friend didn’t understand friendship skills. He lacked self-awareness, empathy, and accountability, all key components of the program. One boy explained to the school counselor that the group was helping their new friend learn the Lead From Here competencies. The counselor’s jaw dropped in response; that was the work she was poised to do, Ramsden said. (Read a blog about Lead From Here, and listen to a podcast with Ramsden and leaders of the program.)
In addition to spreading leadership throughout an organization’s hierarchy, attendees discussed that people of different temperaments ought to be represented in leadership. Heidi Kasevich, director of Quiet Education associated with Susan Cain’s Quiet Revolution, urged schools to give voice to the introverts among us. Introverts are characterized by preferences for quiet stimulation over excitement and deliberate thinking over quick thinking.
Kasevich noted that 50 percent of workers self-identify as introverts, while 96 percent of leaders and managers self-identify as extroverts. Sixty-four percent of people believe their organizations are not harnessing the power of introverted employees, she said. To be sure, a group mixed with introverts and extroverts achieves a more creative outcome, according to organizational psychologist Adam Grant’s research.
Kasevich gave tips to promote quiet leaders’ success:
  • use energy strategically,
  • schedule solitary time,
  • show enthusiasm,
  • schedule a time to walk the halls,
  • let extroverts know you care,
  • talk to introverts one-on-one, and
  • use solitude to make good decisions.

Leading with More Feeling

Attendees discussed the move toward expressing emotional intelligence in leadership. Since Daniel Goleman wrote Emotional Intelligence in 1995, social and emotional intelligence has become a cornerstone of leaders’ development in schools and corporations, Janet Patti, a facilitator at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, said in a videotaped address to the group.
The results are clear: Managers and leaders with higher emotional quotients have greater sensitivity and empathy, are rated as more effective, receive higher performance ratings, develop high-performing effective teams, and create a healthier school culture.
The modern view of emotion encompasses attention, memory, learning, decision-making, relationship quality, physical and mental health, and everyday effectiveness, she said. To evaluate emotional intelligence, the Yale Center uses the RULER Approach:
  • Recognize emotions in self and others,
  • Understand the cause and consequences of emotions,
  • Label emotions accurately,
  • Express emotions appropriately, and
  • Regulate emotions effectively.
Patti concluded by underscoring the role emotional intelligence plays in building more creative, healthy, effective, and compassionate schools. “There is a growing understanding that we cannot change the behavior of schools until we change the behaviors of the people who work in them. We believe that intensive change in schools and in student learning will happen when school leaders develop their own social, emotional, and cognitive skills, and build professional capital through the transformation of the adults responsible for the teaching and learning of our children.”

The Unintended Leader

Tech entrepreneur Donald Golini also touched on the need to display emotional intelligence as he rose in his career. When he founded QED Technologies in 1996, he never dreamed his business would grow to more than 70 employees and generate $18 million in revenue. He developed and sold high-tech products for the precision optics market throughout the world, counting Canon and Leica as customers, among others. He began by giving presentations on how material science could solve an important problem for the industry, then wrote a business plan and persuaded others to join him.
After 10 years he sold the company, which was a difficult decision because he hired every single person there. Today, he teaches college student engineers how to write business plans and can spot problems early based on his experience.
Along his success route, Golini learned that surrounding yourself with competent people is a must. That means hiring top talent and establishing an advisory board that works for you, he said.
Also key is a strong company culture. Golini infused his with integrity, a can-do attitude, accountability, mutual respect, and transparency. “If the values statement posted in the lobby is not real…EVERYBODY knows,” he pointed out.
No matter how clear core values are, they can be misinterpreted, Golini discovered. A former employee confused “can do” anything with “can do” everything.  In that case, Golini put on his “chief executive counselor” hat to help. “You have to be willing to coach [employees] in personal and professional tough times,” Golini said. “He could have quit and would have quit if I wasn’t available to him.”
Golini said developing leadership skills was pivotal in his ability to recruit and maintain a great team at QED Technologies.

Your Leadership Stories Matter

Join NAIS as we continue to redefine and explore leadership amid our changing times. We encourage you to discuss ideas using the Twitter hashtag #NAISDeepDive and post in NAIS Connect’s “Idea Exchange” community.

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay

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You don’t have to be a Jane Austen fan to become enraptured in The Austen Escape. Katherine Reay’s latest women’s fiction novel is very much a classic coming-of-age story with historic and modern twists. Even the two settings are emblematic of old and new eras.

The novel opens in Austin, Texas, a tech hub, where the main character, Mary Davies, is struggling with a project at a startup engineering design firm. When her childhood best friend and Jane Austen scholar invites her to visit Austen’s hometown of Bath, England, to finish her dissertation, Mary accepts, hoping the trip will help her forget her work woes and the company consultant she’s been crushing on for the past year.

While the book ticks along slowly at first, the road winds to pure enchantment in Bath. Scenes of fly fishing, dialogue, piano playing, and dancing unfold in flowing prose. But Mary and friend Isabel Dwyer wrestle with some huge obstacles: shortly after arriving in England, Isabel loses her memory and believes she’s living in the 19th century while Mary discovers that her friend is not who she thought she was.

In the midst of such conflict, Reay drops in many pearls, and often uses Mary, with limited life experience, as the source. Savor this one: “Music is math, and once you understand that… How can anyone not be in awe? It’s the audible expression behind the laws of the universe. It feels like the only thing, apart from God, that lives outside time. Once released, it lives on and it can make you laugh and cry, rip you apart and heal you, all within a few discrete notes strung together. And while it follows rules, expression is limitless.”

As Mary comes to more clearly understand life and work through her experiences in Bath and Austin, her coming of age can only be described as sublime.

 

‘A Disappearance in Damascus’ is the story of a journalist’s hunt for a kidnapped Iraqi colleague

Deborah Campbell’s clear, compassionate voice pierces war’s fog and woe in her new memoir, A Disappearance in Damascus: Friendship and Survival in the Shadow of War.

We meet Campbell in 2007 in Damascus, Syria, where she’s reporting for Harper’s magazine on the refugees fleeing war-ravaged Iraq. A seasoned immersive journalist, she goes undercover as an academic to move about more freely and avoid suspicion. For a while, this approach works well: She doggedly pursues her work, describing refugees’ current suffering and survivors’ haunting memories of kidnappings, torture, and shootings with clear-eyed resolve and an empathetic touch. She even opens up to us about the toll such work takes on her own romantic relationship.

When Campbell meets Ahlam – a name meaning dreams – we see a walking example of resilience. (Campbell identities her only as Ahlam for her family’s sake.) After the Iraq war began in 2003, Ahlam worked as a fixer for The Wall Street Journal and then at the Americans’ civil-military affairs office. It was dangerous, she knew, but she didn’t see other options for work. In 2005, she was kidnapped by al-Qaeda in Baghdad, considered a traitor for working with the Americans. Freedom’s price: a $50,000 ransom and a promise to leave Iraq permanently. But tragedy followed when she, her husband, and three children started a new life in Syria. Ahlam’s 11-year-old son died in 2006 after an illness was mistreated.

Despite these circumstances, Ahlam remains a force of nature – and for good. She becomes the de facto mayor of the refugee community, Little Baghdad, and houses young men in her cramped quarters. In her work as a fixer helping reputable journalists get out the news, she earns a reputation for maneuvering through sticky situations with her fluency in English and Arabic, street smarts, and caring ways. Campbell quickly becomes one of her many admirers and friends. Early on, Campbell asks Ahlam what she wants to achieve through her work. Ahlam replies, “Someone has to open the door and show the world what is happening.”

It’s one of several bonds the two women share. Their friendship is forged in “shared risk,” Campbell writes. Their love of learning and their commitment to serve humanity shine through as well. “You’re a free bird…. Don’t let anyone put you in a cage,” Ahlam’s father once told her. Raised in a Sunni farming village, Ahlam described how her father taught her to see beyond sectarian differences, to see Sunni and Shia Muslims as brothers. He encouraged her to continue her schooling and she became the first girl from her village to finish high school and the first person there to earn a college degree. Campbell recounts the moment that Ahlam brought her college diploma to her father’s grave to show him she had accomplished their goal. Ahlam pays this gift forward by opening a school for young girls in her small Damascus apartment, where Campbell witnesses – and marvels at – the moment of hope.

The women’s friendship is tested when Ahlam is taken away right in front of Campbell. For the first time, perhaps in her entire life, Campbell feels helpless and grows paranoid that she is being watched. Who is Ahlam really? Why was she arrested? And is Campbell next? Even while she worries, she doesn’t stop searching for her friend. She taps her contacts and draws on her wits and knowledge of the area to guide her steps. Meanwhile, Ahlam is meeting challenges in prison, and we see the force of her spirit.

The thriller, mystery novel quality kept me turning pages, but of course, it isn’t fiction, even if truth has been obscured by war and the passage of time. Campbell takes time to dispel beliefs about what is now history. She reports that the civil war in Syria did not spark in 2011 because of sectarian divides but from a simmering class divide between the city and the countryside. Iraqi middle-class refugees poured into the Syrian cities, a famine in the poor farming areas drove Syrians to the same cities looking for work, and President Bashar al-Assad sought to liberalize the economy by privatizing state lands and services and cutting subsidies to the poor. After urban progressives protested the ruling elite, a sectarian proxy war spiraled as regional powers seized on the chaos to advance their interests.

Throughout her story, Campbell conveys both authority and humility — a refreshing combination of traits. At a few points, she questions whether she is making a positive impact with her writing. With her ability to open up, educate, and empathize, I would submit that she is indeed.

The Creative Power of Pairs in Education

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Author Joshua Wolf Shenk knows something about the significance of creative partnerships from collaborating with his editor to chronicling historic examples — including Lennon and McCartney and the Van Gogh brothers — for his 2014 book Powers of Two: How Relationships Drive Creativity. I spoke with Shenk to learn how his findings can benefit educators and students.

Ari Pinkus: In your book, you argue that the pair is the primary creative unit for several reasons: “One, we’re set up to interact with a single person more openly and deeply than with any group, given that our psyches take shape through one-on-one exchanges with caregivers. The dyad is also the most fluid and flexible of relationships, and pairs naturally arouse engagement, intensity… nobody can hide in a pair.” How can all of this apply to education?

Joshua Wolf Shenk: Education seems to focus on two kinds of work experience: purely solitary (test-taking, paper-writing, etc.) and work in groups. But the significance of the pair may be underplayed, as it often is in the culture at large. Most radical creative advance tends to happen in pairs. Work we ascribe to the “lone genius” is usually activated by relationships. These are not necessarily traditional collaborations in which two people are equally responsible for the work; the key term is not collaboration as such but “creative intimacy,” when two people inspire, complement, push each other to something bigger than they could do alone.

The classroom could be a site to apply this lesson and make it work for students and teachers. I know that, in my schooling, I always did my best stuff when I had chemistry with a teacher and with fellow students.

And it’s worth adding that these relationships, while often harmonious, were also sometimes competitive. Having a partner who sets a high bar that you’re trying to clear can be really powerful.

Pinkus: The book is filled with examples of successful pairings in various fields: the Beatles’ Paul McCartney and John Lennon; artist Vincent Van Gogh and his art dealer brother, Theo; co-discoverers of DNA’s structure James Watson and Francis Crick; and others. What individual characteristics did they have that made their pairings thrive? What lessons can educators apply from understanding their dynamics?

Shenk: The core quality supporting what we call chemistry or synergy is what I call “complementarity.” Complementarity is this weird coexistence of really deep similarities in two people to the point that it’s uncanny how much they are alike. At the same time, they have surprisingly radical differences, too. Of course, any two people will be alike in some ways and unalike in others. But what I found in these epic duos were these really extreme traits at both ends.

We tend not to think about pairings that way. For example, if a kid is struggling, we think he should be with another kid who’s struggling — and hope they can help each other. But we might think the opposite: Put the kid who’s struggling with the kid who’s high-achieving, and hope that the more advanced kid benefits from explaining and the kid who’s a bit behind benefits from the other’s knowledge. What I’m suggesting is that teachers should think about putting kids together who have something to offer each other because of their differences and their enormous rapport. This is where the magic happens.

To some extent, you can think about it rationally, but teachers also need to trust their intuition —watching for the kids who really click.

One method of finding complementarity is the creative first date. I did this not long ago at a performing arts high school in Houston, and it was a lot of fun. I gave the students a small exercise and had them do it with five people in quick succession, and then I had them reflect on their experience. With whom were they feeling a little slowed down? With whom were feeling a little sharper, smarter? All of us have these different experiences with people constantly, and a lot of what I’m trying to do in the book is help people become aware of them and pay attention to them.

Pinkus: You delve into the concept of dialectics, writing that it “describes the process by which something singular emerges out of an interaction or duality,” and that dialogue forms a significant part of this process. How can educators harness the power of dialectics in and out of the classroom? 

Shenk: When you look at great creative lives — people who have made meaningful work that’s reached its appropriate audience and has been received by the field as important — there is always an important story of relationships underneath.

It’s much easier to tell the story of an individual and present whomever he or she interacts with as supporting players. We like telling the story of the solo success in part because it is dramatically effective. For instance, every state in the country has a Martin Luther King, Jr. street or avenue or road — as a way to honor King’s great work in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s. But far fewer people know of Ralph Abernathy who essentially was King’s creative partner in the movement. It was, in fact, the relationship between those two men that created the civil rights movement. Everyone close to them knew it, but no one close to them really understood just how or why. There’s an element of mystery in it. In the end, it proved to be very convenient to just excise Abernathy from the story, no matter the injustice of it.

The story of relational influence is very common. In education, we always hear about teacher-student ratios, the implicit assumption being that exchange between the teacher and the student is the critical one, or the only one of value. But no matter what, you’re going to have a community of peers that is going to way outnumber the teacher. So how do you make that an engine for advancement rather than a hindrance? There really needs to be a consideration about how people work together and activate each other, inspire each other, vex each other, egg each other on.

Relationships are part of the engine of creative growth. And they’re often critical to creative growth. Alongside that are all kinds of challenges. Relationships are not easy. There is conflict; there is misunderstanding.

In pair relationships, you have two individuals and a social reality simultaneously. We need to think about how to support both — encourage individuality and idiosyncrasy and responsibility alongside empathy and awareness and so on.

Pinkus: In your book, you say that when it comes to creativity, “the heroic work, our teachers enjoin us, is to stay with the discomfort.” Why is discomfort necessary for creativity, and how can teachers best enjoin their students to remain there?

Shenk: Things are easy for us when we go down a path that’s already marked off, that is well-trodden. You’re less likely to get lost. We spend our days moving through these paths, hewing to established forms. We’re biologically driven to do that, to follow patterns and models and to not shake things up.

One reason speaking in front of a group can be so terrifying is that we were created in evolutionary time with this physical awareness that being exiled from the group would be like death. When you’re up in front of a group, you’re feeling that ancient fear.

So the natural forces are pushing us toward convention. I don’t say that with distain; I say that with a lot of respect. We have to learn in life how to follow these conventions; how to drive on the right side of the road; do the dishes soon after we eat. But that’s not creative. The creative act is one that involves stepping outside of something that we already know and doing something new and different. “Disruption” is a cliché right now, but creative people often naturally think in unusually different ways. Think about how many creative people were misfits and losers in high school, and who were their teachers’ worst enemy.

Some kind of movement out of the ordinary is essential to creativity. At its essence, the process is uncomfortable because it takes us out of these predicted and prescribed pathways and subjects us to all kinds of new and potentially scary and shameful things.

So letting people know that discomfort is OK, that it’s part of the process is critical. We hear these stories that the creative act follows this mythic structure. You have to charge into the wilderness and get lost in order to find the golden challis that you’ll bring back to a cheering crowd. It’s scary in those woods. If you set off down that path, and say, “Oh my god, it’s scary in there,” and then you race back out, then you’ll never get anything that’s meaningful to you, and you’ll never help the world.

This resistance is core to the creative process. That’s why writers and other creative people have rituals and daily routines. They have all kinds of restrictions they put on themselves. The moment you sit down to write, the first thing you want to do is get up and get coffee or check email or do any of a thousand things. But doing those things will keep you in the small think of everyday life, and keep you from being able to come to that new and scary and delightful place.

Pinkus: Thank you so much for this conversation. It’s been really fascinating. 

Shenk: I hope it’s helpful. Education is near and dear to me because the most important relationships in my life were in school. And I’m a writer in the first place because of a high school English teacher named Cindy Briggs, who I’m still in touch with. She came to Cincinnati when I gave my reading for this book. There’s a college teacher of mine named Pat Hoy, who taught me how to write essays. And I wrote this book in large part because I felt I was learning something that I wish I knew when I was younger.

To read more about the creative genius of pairs, check out the following:

· “The Power of Two” by Joshua Wolf Shenk

· “Creative Pairs, in Their Own Words” by Joshua Wolf Shenk

· “The Genius of Difference” by John Chubb

Ari Pinkus is the digital editor and producer at NAIS.

A year after the March, women are sprinting forward

From The Christian Science Monitor

Ginny Dameron didn’t know what to expect from the Women’s March in Austin, Tex., last January. She usually avoids big crowds, and worried about the potential for confrontation. But seeing tens of thousands of people show up at the state capitol, she says, “wowed” her: “It was the sense that we were not alone.”

Odelia Younge also felt conflicted over whether to join the March in San Francisco — at first. Her top causes: reproductive and social justice, especially for the black community. “I decided to show up in a way I wanted to,” she says. She made her mark that day by shouting positive chants with her friends in the crowd — shifting the focus to what they want, not what they’re against.

For Emily Porter, the decision was easier. As a mom to two daughters, she says she felt compelled to be there. Marching on the Mall in Washington, D.C., awoke feelings of empowerment and validation. “It wasn’t just me feeling angry,” she says. “There was a real sense of female community.”

These women’s stories are emblematic of marchers nationwide who took to the streets on Jan. 21, 2017: They came out spontaneously, and for different reasons. And they were ultimately encouraged – and changed – by the experience.

Now, a year later, there’s something else they agree on: the pull toward political engagement has stayed with them. Whether it’s donating to campaigns, hosting forums, or engaging their neighbors, each of them has found a personal way to participate in politics.

“I’ve called my representatives more than in my entire life,” Ms. Porter says.

The same is true of women across the country, who since the marches have rushed to file candidacies at every level of office. That energy has also seeped through to other aspects of American life, amplifying female voices on issues where women have long stayed silent and moving feminism to the center of national discourse.

“The Women’s March gave me an opportunity to pull myself out of helplessness and join with others who are advocates for women,” says Miranda Orbach, who went to the march in Washington with her partner and their families. The experience, she says, “grounded and inspired me.”

A hastily organized outpouring

The Women’s March ranks comfortably among the largest one-day demonstrations in recorded American history, rivaling the Vietnam War Moratoriums in 1969, the first Earth Day in 1970, and demonstrations opposing the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Crowd scientists estimated that at least 470,000 people participated on or near the Washington Mall alone. Along with 673 sister marches held in all 50 states and 32 countries, the total number of protesters reached an estimated 3 to 4.5 million.

It was in many ways a hastily organized outpouring, an organic response to the 2016 election and what many saw as the unprecedented – and unacceptable – divisiveness of the newly elected president, Donald Trump.

“The women’s marches in 2017 reflected a mass sentiment among women across the board against Trump, but for very different reasons,” says Barbara Ransby, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Some, she notes, were dismayed that Hillary Clinton had lost, after coming so close to becoming America’s first female president. Others were aghast at Mr. Trump’s perceived racism and “the arrogance of wealth and privilege that he exudes.”

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Concerns About Online Privacy Are Top of Mind Across America

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As data breaches roil the tech landscape and moves to boycott Facebook, Apple, and Google increase, Americans across the country see the lack of privacy online significantly impacting them and those they know. It appears to be a great common denominator in the country’s cultural experience today, unlike many other aspects of life as chronicled by the American Communities Project.

Online usage tracks similarly among the 15 community types. According to Simmons Consumer Research data from July to December 2017, 45 percent of Americans on average went online at home more than 25 times in a given week. (Hispanic Centers were the notable exception with 38 percent logging on that much.) About 17 percent spent one to four hours online at home (but not on email) and 15 percent spent five to nine hours online in their homes in a typical week.

Despite such consumption, just 31 percent of people feel they have “a fair amount of control over information about them online.” This deviates by just a percentage point or two across the 15 community types in the American Communities Project. Aging Farmlands is on the lower end at 27 percent, perhaps because fewer people are online in these places.

In bleaker news, 15 percent of people across community types say they had a negative experience with online info about them while 38 percent say they know people who have had a negative experience. The outlier in this data is LDS enclaves, made up of large numbers of people of Mormon faith. Here 46 percent say they know people who have had a negative experience with their personal info online. The close-knit nature of these communities may help them spread the word faster; their underrepresented religion could make them a target online.

Generally, people feel helpless when these situations happen. Across community types, 42 percent of people agreed that once their personal info is online, there’s nothing they can do about it. The percentages in individual regions range from 40 to 44 percent.

Risk Awareness

To be sure, the latest headlines show that Americans are not fully informed about what’s happening to their personal information online. Simmons found that 55 percent of people believe they understand the risks of providing information online. Drilling down, this number ranges from 57 percent in the Exurbs, home to a high percentage of wealthy and educated residents, to 52 percent in Hispanic Centers, whose demographics are 56 percent Hispanic and 30 percent under 18.

However, just 27 percent said they often read companies’ privacy statements. In most kinds of communities, the figure ranges between 24 and 28 percent. In the African American South, the number hits 30 percent. Perhaps then it’s not surprising that many people weren’t aware Facebook Messenger was scraping their personal information and upset to recently learn that it was happening. In a bit of irony, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg responded that people who signed up for the company’s app accepted all the terms in its user agreement.

Government Not Trusted

As Congress grills Zuckerberg this week about Cambridge Analytica’s data harvesting of up to 87 million users, it’s worth pointing out that people’s confidence that government can handle the problem is not high. Just 31 percent of people said they trusted the federal government to protect their privacy online, according to the Simmons survey. Aging Farmlands had the least trust at 27 percent. (In the U.S., Facebook has a total audience of 214 million users.)

At the same time, the big tech companies have become a force in Washington, pushing an agenda that includes less regulation. Google’s parent company spent more than $18 million on lobbying in DC last year—more than any other company in 2017. In the same period, Facebook spent more than $11 million on lobbying efforts, Amazon more than $12 million, and Apple more than $7 million, according to opensecrets.org.

With all the data breaches and the government’s laissez faire policies thus far, it seems some people have chosen to take matters into their own hands. Twenty-five percent of people across community types said they are using the internet less because of privacy concerns.

Where People Are Living Their Best Possible Lives

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Schools keep trying to get a handle on it; workplaces are carving out time to address it; meanwhile, myriad media are filled with advice to help people with it. The issue is wellness, and the community where you live seems to play a big role in how it looks to you.

The Well-Being Index from Gallup and Sharecare “measures Americans’ perceptions of their lives and their daily experiences through five interrelated elements that make up well-being: sense of purpose, social relationships, financial security, relationship to community, and physical health,” according to the website.

The American Communities Project sheds light on Gallup-Sharecare’s well-being survey in new ways and shows how people’s perceptions of their lives today and their expectations for the future often vary by where they live.

First, consider how Americans across the ACP’s 15 types view their lives today. On average, 11.1 percent say they are living their “best possible” lives, according to a recent Gallup-Sharecare survey.

But just where are people living their best lives?

Community Well-Being  

In the African American South – the least wealthy of the 15 community types with a median household income of just $35,561 – the percentage of people who say they’re living their best possible lives reaches 14.3 percent. This community type is marked by a diverse population. African Americans compose 40 percent of these communities, and few Hispanics live here.

Hispanic Centers, places where Hispanics make up 56 percent of the population on average and the median annual income is about $42,000, 13.6 percent report that they are living the best lives possible. These communities are often seen as the epicenter of today’s immigration flash points, but at the same time, many are coming to the United States for a better life for themselves and their families. It’s worth noting that Hispanic Centers also skew younger, with 30 percent of the population under 18, which could lead to a more hopeful disposition.

In more homogenous Evangelical Hubs in the South, where 85 percent of the population is white, the numbers also sites above the national average with 13.1 percent say they are living their best possible lives. Again, that’s despite some socio-economic challenges in these places. The median income in them is $39,000, and just 15 percent have at least a bachelor’s degree.

The numbers are a bit lower in Rural Middle America, where 10.5 percent report they are now living the best possible life they can. That may be a bit surprising considering some of the other factors that define that broad swath of counties that stretches from Maine to Washington state.

Although the median household income and college education rate in those counties sits above those of the Evangelical Hubs, Hispanic Centers, African American South, that does not yield a better wellness figure.

And the number for Rural Middle America is largely on par with a couple of much more densely populated and diverse community types: the Big Cities and Urban Suburbs (the wealthiest of the types with a median income of $66,500), where 10.8 percent and 10.5 percent, respectively, say they’re living their best possible lives now. In both those communities, the desire to keep up with more affluent neighbors and friends may push that number lower than for other groups.

Yet it’s the LDS Enclaves (where 31 percent are under 18) and the Middle Suburbs (concentrated in the Northeast and Midwest and 87 percent white) that have the lowest percentages at 9.6 and 9.8 percent, respectively. The Middle Suburbs, in particular, have been more stagnant than the Urban Suburbs and Exurbs and have felt the effects of cumulative layoffs in a variety of industries.

You can see a map of the types here: 

In Many Places, the Future Looks Bright

Overall, the survey found that people feel much more optimistic about their futures. Across America, an average of 26 percent believe they will be living their best possible lives five years from now. In several kinds of places, people are feeling particularly positive. Take the African American South, where 31.5 percent say they expect to experience their best possible lives five years hence.

In Hispanic Centers, that number is 30 percent. Striving for a better life may be one reason for this strong showing. Hispanics are also known for having close-knit families and communities. These social relationships and ties to community are crucial to well-being and can boost their expectations for living their best lives.

In the affluent Urban Suburbs, 26.3 percent say they expect to live their best possible lives in five years. Big Cities come in at 28.4 percent. Both the Urban Suburbs and Big Cities are more racially and economically diverse than other community types; tensions often flare as seen in recent years. Also, people here will likely want to maintain, or even surpass, their current standard of living — and may feel the pressure of higher expectations that comes with living near more wealth.

Room to Improve

It may come as a surprise that the picture looks a little bleaker in the College Towns. Located near colleges and universities, these places are second from the bottom of the 15 community types, with 21.2 percent believing they will live their best possible lives in five years. Some may scratch their heads because such places are home to high percentages of youth and college graduates and widely considered bastions of idealism and possibility.

But along with that potentially brighter future in the long run, many unsettling changes are occurring here: the high cost and questionable value of college; seismic demographic shifts spurring new divisions on campus; wellness concerns about sexual assault, depression, drugs, and screen time; and fears about artificial intelligence in the workplace. It will be important to keep an eye on this group’s well-being, as these counties are the home of the nation’s future economic and cultural leaders. Such gloomy views from these communities may not be a good sign for the years ahead.

Reimagining the High School Transcript

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How do we improve teaching and learning? What’s the best way to assess student progress? As educators tackle these questions, a group of schools has joined to develop a new approach to assessment sans grades. Formed at the 2017 NAIS Annual Conference, the Mastery Transcript Consortium (MTC) aims to “change the relationship between preparation for college and college admissions for the betterment of students.”

MTC’s work to reimagine the high school transcript has struck a chord. The group received $2 million from the Edward E. Ford Foundation, garnered copious press, and stirred the independent school community.

John Gulla, E.E. Ford’s executive director, and Rand Harrington, Kent Denver School’s (CO) head of school, shared their contrasting views of MTC in an extended email chat last fall. The two know each other from The Blake School (MN) where Gulla hired Harrington as a science teacher. In this edited exchange, they challenge each other’s thinking—and reveal their vision for education.

Rand Harrington:  John, I saw you posted another MTC article. Although I am open to being convinced otherwise, my current thoughts on MTC are quite dim. I see this as a ruse to avoid the most important questions about great teaching. Last summer, the dean of admission at a highly selective university described MTC as a non-starter—unreliable and unnecessary. I can’t say I disagree.

John Gulla: I don’t have any need to convince you there are great benefits in an approach to assessing student progress without grades as reflected in the goals of MTC. Some quick points:

1. Grades are an inherently limited and greatly flawed practice. Why reduce to a one-dimensional measure something (student progress) that is inherently multidimensional?

2. Are you really quoting a university admission dean in support of your position? How can he know MTC’s approach to be unreliable when it hasn’t even been developed yet? Unnecessary? I could not disagree more. There are more than 150 schools now signed up with MTC. I’ll bet you this university learns how to read and interpret the MTC transcript to assess the students who apply from schools using it.

3. Too many teachers think grades are “objective” measures. They are not. Can they represent something meaningful about a student’s progress? Sure. But they weren’t handed down inscribed on stone tablets to Moses from on high. Do you know where and when and why their use began? (Mount Holyoke College, 1887, standardization). I could go on and on.

4. I’d urge you to consider these questions: Do grades serve your students well? Do they encourage the sort of teaching and learning that you hope to see at KDS? If so, then stay dim on this approach for your school.

Harrington: In my opinion, the key questions are: How will MTC improve classroom teaching? Is the talk of MTC moving along the conversation about what great teaching is, or is it a distraction? Here are my additional two cents:

First, college admission is a process of selection requiring some type of judgment. What remains is the question of what to judge and by what metrics. The way MTC was shared with me indicated categories that were nonuniform, determined by each school, very poorly defined, and more unreliable than what we have now.

Not one of the problems with grades—inaccuracy, no meaning, inflation, measures the wrong thing—can be fixed by changing how we represent grades or even changing the category, from disciplinary to non-cognitive. Every critique I have heard can be traced back to the skill of the teacher. Poorly trained teachers with no expertise who make a mess out of grades will make an even bigger mess out of an alternative transcript where “content” has no value.

Should we be measuring or encouraging a wider variety of skills and attitudes? Certainly. Is the way we represent student achievement to colleges the issue? No, the issue is how we teach and what we value in our classrooms. In the end, students will be judged by both their ability to learn concepts in physics (or history or math or art) and their work ethic and resilience. And, if done right, their grades should reflect both.

As you can sense, I have strong feelings about this. The teacher shortage is coming, and schools are ill-prepared. And MTC will not [in my opinion] solve this problem.

Gulla: I have never thought that there is only one right way to go about this pursuit of organized education.

For schools that want to continue to offer grades—those limited measures that so often become ends in themselves and obscure the real goal, which, in my mind, is to create a desire to know, something that I feel we are born with but that so much of formal education effectively snuffs out over childhood and adolescence—the same way forward is yours to take. Schools that want to continue to create sorting systems that have resulted in epidemic levels of childhood anxiety, depression, unhealthy habits of sleep deprivation, and soulless pursuits of externally determined societally endorsed goals, the path forward is clear. Keep on keeping on.

Harrington: My point is that tossing the foundations is a terrible mistake. The mental health issues you describe are serious, but are not [in my opinion] caused by grades.

Gulla: And my point is that we agree that the foundations are necessary, but we disagree about grading, which is not necessary. I worked for seven years at a school that gave no grades. It is possible to have a very “rigorous” experience without grades.

Harrington: No grades, but certainly the school had assessments. Were these all formative? Likely not, some
must have been summative. Were they narratives? The details are important, because what you call “grading” is pretty narrow (A, B, C scales). I am arguing that summative assessments are necessary, and that how those assessments are labeled is less important. You seem hung up on the labels themselves. Replacing A, B, C with something else does not solve the problems you describe.

Even the pure narrative ends up being scored by whoever is judging the student’s application to their next experience (higher education or a job). That scoring is a judgment that should be the responsibility of the great teacher who knows the student. Shying away from judgment (or  grading) is a cop-out. Improve the skill of the teacher so the judgments are accurate and value the right things.

Gulla: You seem hung up on the “necessity” of some form of one-dimensional ranking. So I find when such an impasse has been reached, a story can help. Back when U.S. News & World Report was still a print magazine and they were trying to expand their pernicious practices of ranking to independent schools, the then-president of NAIS, Peter Relic, urged membership not to cooperate. The U.S. News group got wind of this and sent the project lead to talk with Peter. During the chitchat, Peter asked the guy if he had any children. The man said he had three. Peter asked him to rank them.

Harrington: I agree, that is silly in the same way that we discarded class rankings some years ago. I see class rankings as equivalent to your examples. In other words, one number to judge something that is multivariable. Our grades are associated with the standard disciplines: English, math, science, etc. If a student can only muster a C or a D in English classes, then one would deem that useful information about their ability to read or write (a deficit that would likely impact their potential success in college). We can argue whether we need more categories.

My point is that whatever dimensions you decide are meaningful, there is someone or some institution that will want to know if this student is OK, good, or exceptional in this area. [By the way], the MTC prototype does the exact same thing, but with hard-to-measure categories and colored pie graphs.

Gulla: Yes, outside institutions will want information so that they can sort students. They may even want us to grade the students, but we don’t have to do their work for them.

This is the whole reason Scott Looney didn’t want to go this alone with Hawken [School (OH)]. No college or university is going to decide to simply ignore and fail to consider how to read and understand a mastery transcript when there may be thousands of very talented (not to mention many who are full-pay) students whose applications have this transcript, not the antiquated, Industrial Age, Carnegie unit, seat-time based transcript they’ll be getting from schools that stay the course!

Harrington: Sure, performance-based assessments look amazing on first pass. Unfortunately, we (teachers) end up spending a lot more time on the mechanics of assessment with our noses pressed to the screen tracking students with digital rubrics than we do teaching and planning our learning experiences. I once developed a rich rubric that looked at experimental skills, problem-solving skills, and conceptual understanding. In the end, I had to give them a single grade. But unlike some folks, I didn’t find this too distasteful, given my grades had always been an indication of some weighting of all these things … as it should be.

So, this is perhaps the guts of what we disagree about. You have a very optimistic view that MTC will be the thing that will take us to this elevated place where we know students so well in all their dimensions that colleges will be able to pick and choose based on some other criteria.

But if you think getting a B in U.S. history is ambiguous and without meaning, then try evaluating a student’s “grit” on whatever scale you want (linear or otherwise). I’ve seen no evidence that those promoting MTC have spent much time on how to define good teaching or how to make these more meaningful assessments. If you believe these conversations are happening, then I will be the first to support the effort.

This conversation really deserves a few beers in person. Perhaps sometime this year…

Gulla: Yes!

Have you had a great conversation with a colleague recently that broke down silos or got you thinking about your work in a new way? Have you chatted with someone on (or off) campus that led to an unexpected collaboration? Tell us about it. Do you know of—or are you a part of—an exemplary mentor-mentee pair? A great student-teacher duo? We want to hear about it. Send a brief description to ismag@nais.org and we’ll follow up.

Untangling Teen Wellness Issues: A Conversation with Psychologist Lisa Damour

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How can educators and parents best help teens cope with the challenging issues they face today, whether it’s social media and technology use, alcohol consumption, peer conflicts and bullying, romantic relationships, or academics? For answers, I recently spoke with psychologist Lisa Damour, author of the new book Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood. Damour is also head of the Laurel Center for Research on Girls at the Laurel School (Ohio).

The Seven Transitions to Adulthood (0:40)
“There are seven distinct developmental tasks that move girls from childhood into adulthood: Parting with Childhood, Joining a New Tribe, Harnessing Emotions, Contending with Adult Authority, Planning for the Future, Entering the Romantic World, and Caring for Themselves.”
“In the course of normal development, most teenagers are working on several of these simultaneously. They don’t necessarily follow in lockstep, and yet… in some ways, you could almost map them [by] the grade levels of sixth through twelve in terms of what becomes a really big deal grade by grade.”
Social Media and Technology (2:39)
“We don’t want [social media and technology] to interfere with sleep, a student’s ability to focus in an academic way, students’ safety, or their social skills.”
“If we don’t want it to interfere with sleep, then what we really know is that teenagers and adults need to turn off their technology at least a half an hour before bed and not have it in their bedrooms.
“[Social media] should be nowhere near teenagers when they’re doing their homework. That’s hard because often they need to do their homework on a computer, and in those moments, helping teenagers to use the applications like anti-social that shut down their access to social media for a limited period of time can be a useful way for them to be efficient in getting their work done.”
Drinking (When 80 Percent of Teenagers Have Tried Alcohol) (4:52)
“I will say to girls ‘Look, you all know you’re not supposed to drink both for legal reasons and for health reasons, but you and I both know that lots of kids get to parties on the weekend and they’re drinking anyway. Can you walk me through why they’re drinking? Can you walk me through what’s really happening there? What gets between what they know and what they do?’
“And it’s not as if we walk out of that conversation with every girl resolving to be sober until she’s 21, but I feel like those are more successful conversations because I get them to examine the gap between what they say they’re going to do and what they’re really going to do, and hopefully recruit some of their better thinking into that.”
Peer Conflict vs. Bullying (7:33)
“Unfortunately, a lot of adults these days mistake conflict for bullying, and I think all of us on the school side get those phone calls from parents, ‘Oh, my daughter is being bullied,’ and we’re thinking yeah, some days she’s being bullied, or some days she’s being given a hard time and other days she’s giving other kids a hard time. So I think that conflict range is actually where it gets gray.
“Conflict gets really complex. We want girls to be able to stand up for themselves. We want them to do it in a way that does not stamp on other people’s rights. I think girls need a huge amount of support around this; assertion is something that we should be teaching girls much more directly than we do.”
Resolving Bullying Incidents (11:32)
“In a true bullying situation, it is very unhelpful to sit the victim and the bully down together. It is usually known to actually expose the victim to further bullying.
“[In my book], I tell an amalgam story of a girl who is truly a victim of bullying. She is being targeted by a group of classmates, both boys and girls. She’s in a coed school. She’s being harassed around her size and her shape, and she’s unable to defend herself and she’s really suffering.
 “The principal did a really beautiful job of handling the situation in that he interviewed bystanders to confirm the victim’s story and then met directly with the bullies, separate from meeting with the victim, and developed a disciplinary approach around their behavior and made it very clear what they needed to do to make reparations within the community and also made it clear what the consequences would be for any further behavior, but he handled that separately from his care of the victim who was not ever forced to confront her bullies or try to come to some negotiation with them on her own.”
 
Changing the Conversation About Girls’ Sexual Health (14:01)
“By the measures of sexual health that we have, which tend to be unwanted pregnancies, STD transmission, and things that we can easily measure, American girls have the worst sexual health in the industrialized world; Dutch girls have the best sexualized health in the industrialized world. When we look at the Dutch, we see that parents and the education system in that culture talk about physical romance in terms of joy and responsibility. And enjoying it and doing what you want and being allowed to want is central to their understanding of why we get involved physically at all.
“In the US, we paint it in a very different light. What we basically say is the boys are on offense, and the girls are on defense. The boys get to want, and the girls get to try to decide what they will and won’t allow. Girls who are made to think about their physical life in this way don’t take such good care of themselves.
“What we can do is say to girls, ‘Hey, when it comes to your romantic lives and the physical side of your romantic lives, the most important thing you want to think about is what do you want? This should be fun for you. This should be something that you’re able to really enjoy. The next thing you want to figure out is what does your partner want, and does your partner want what you want—and whoever wants less, they win.
“The next thing to figure out is: Are there any risks on the table here? If you both want to have intercourse, well, then you’re going to need to prevent against sexually transmitted diseases. If it’s heterosexual intercourse, you’re going to need to prevent against pregnancy.’ But the risk question, which does need to come up, needs to come up third.”
Test Anxiety (20:52)
“The first thing I always like to do when thinking about anxiety is to not talk about it as if it were a factory setting. I think so often when girls are saying, ‘Hi, I have test anxiety,” it’s as if they’re saying, ‘Hi, I have blue eyes,’ like this is something I have and will always have.
“The other thing that we can do is to start a careful line of questioning about where that anxiety is coming from. The first place to start always is to ask girls and boys: ‘How do you prepare for the test?’ Because a surprising amount of the time what turns out is they actually didn’t prepare.”
“I think the next line of questioning if they said that they prepared a lot is to actually ask how they studied, because we have a great body of research these days that I summarized and untangled about how there are effective and ineffective ways to prepare for tests, and we know a lot about what can be done to make things quite a bit more effective.
“If a student is preparing effectively, and they’re still anxious, clinical interventions [can work] to reduce anxiety. A lot of it is relaxation. A lot of it is reframing.”
Failure and Avoidance (23:14)
“[When it comes to planning for the future], one red flag [to watch for] is students who aren’t learning from their mistakes, and this is where Carol Dweck’s incredible work on growth mindset really should be at the center of any conversation. We have some students, typically those with the fixed mindset, who cannot tolerate making mistakes, will not take risks that involve making mistakes. And if they make mistakes, they can’t even look at the mistake and learn from it.
“The other [red flag comes] when students get into patterns of avoidance. Often when students are under-functioning academically, what’s happening is that they’re avoiding their work, or they’re saying they’ll get it done or they’re missing assignments. The problem with avoidance is that it’s a highly reinforcing behavior, but a student who is anxious about work and then chooses not to do it or manages to leave it at school so they can’t face it at home [experiences] very immediate relief. Often it’s a long time before everybody gets talking and they say, ‘Wait, that student is not doing work in your class or my class or my class,’ and then we realize the student basically hasn’t done anything for three weeks.
“It’s critical for schools to help students manage that avoidance and help students come up with strategies that actually make the avoidance impossible, even if that means having a study buddy, or a supervised study hall, or needing to check in with an adult to prevent the avoidance.
“We sometimes mistake avoidance for laziness or dishonesty. Usually, there’s much more avoidance underneath, and addressing that directly gets things back on track faster.”
Success and Autonomy (25:51)
“The number one thing I would recommend is to promote girls’ autonomy because adolescence for both boys and girls is about autonomy. When adults are anxious about how a teenager is coming along, we sometimes forget about their autonomy and want to take over.
“It’s more helpful to say things to teenagers along the lines of, ‘Hey, you have all the power here, and if you want things to go well at school you can absolutely make that happen. And if you don’t want things to go well at school, you can make that happen, too. You’re the one calling the shots. You let us know how we can be helpful, and we’re going to make that happen.’ I think that’s usually the best way to keep people on track.”