Intervention — Ready or not, here I come!

Intervention — Ready or not, here I come!

By Jennifer Davis Bowman

I recently had a student walk out of the classroom in a fit of frustration. Before leaving, I was able to squeeze a few morsels of details from her as to the source of her irritation. Almost in tears, she said that the in-class review session for our next test simply “was not working” for her. A million thoughts were racing through my mind. The student had never asked for assistance before. In addition, I was unaware of any desire on her end to improve her performance or current course average — she was bordering on a C+/B- average at that point. I felt blindsided. I felt completely in the dark as to how I could reach out to this student.

Have you had a similar experience with a student in need of an academic intervention? I believe that a big part of the frustration lies in the fact that as teachers we want to help all of our students, but all of our students are not ready to receive the help. Often there is a disconnect between our desire to intervene and the student’s willingness to accept our help. In psychology, the mismatch between feelings and actions is often labeled as “cognitive dissonance.” In the classroom, I tend to view the misalignment between the helper (teacher) and the receiver (student) as “coaching dissonance.” In an attempt to decrease coaching dissonance — and the challenges that accompany it — I created an intervention readiness checklist that teachers can use as an indicator for student receptiveness.

Answer “yes” or “no” to the questions on
the Intervention Readiness Checklist below:

1. ___Was the student’s intervention need expressed directly? Direct expression versus indirect  — lack of class participation or low attendance — may be a stronger indicator that the student is ready to accept help.

2. ___Did the student’s intervention need manifest quickly? Student needs can appear within a few days or more slowly over the school year. Try to monitor student needs efficiently. Sometimes an unmet need can incite hidden student irritability.

3. ___Does the student have an intervention history in your classroom or in the school? The student’s history with seeking and responding to help may be very informative in planning and monitoring future classroom interventions.

4. ___Can the student contextualize the need and the impact of academic help? Discuss with the student, the benefits and consequences of seeking/responding to help.

5. ___Can the student identify examples and non-examples of utilizing academic help? Understanding that the need for help is natural and normal may help relieve some of the student’s anxiety with the help-seeking process. Examples of individuals needing and utilizing help can be identified with reference to classroom peers, characters in literature or celebrities in the media.

6. ___ Is the student aware of the range of supports available to ensure a positive intervention experience? Discuss with the student examples of classroom, community or possibly culture-specific supports that may strengthen the student’s potential for academic success

As for the student who walked out of my class, she never shared how I could have intervened to improve her experience in my class. As I review the intervention readiness checklist, I search for help in understanding her academic needs a little better. More importantly, I reflect on my role in supporting students to better receive assistance in the classroom.


8 things we know better but do anyway…

8 things we know better but do anyway…

by Justin Tarte

1). We continue to point fingers and do the same things over and over and expect different results. If kids continue not doing what we are asking them to do, then maybe we are the ones who need to reconsider what we are asking them to do. If parents just don’t understand, then maybe we need to do a better job of working with them and helping them to understand. If it didn’t work the first 10 times, then now is a perfect time to try something new.

2). We treat a brand new teacher/administrator the same as we do a 25 year veteran teacher/administrator in terms of their growth and improvement. Here’s the deal, if our 25 year veteran folks have the same needs as our brand new folks to the profession/position, then we have a major problem. We talk about personalizing and customizing education for our students, why aren’t we doing this for our colleagues?

3). We pull kids out of their elective courses (the courses they most likely enjoy the most therefore giving them a reason to enjoy school) and we put them in even more classes they are struggling with. School quickly becomes something that kids resent and try to avoid simply because we force them to spend all their time dealing with their weaknesses and their deficits.

4). We continue to develop and implement our school schedules based on what’s convenient and easiest for the adults. Let’s think about this for a second. Accountability and testing seem to be more and more prevalent in our schools, but yet we are making scheduling decisions that aren’t in the best interest of our students. Why don’t we make scheduling decisions based on what’s best for our students (start and stop time and the elimination of bells) and in turn see an improvement in test scores, which then will be what’s easiest and best for adults?

5). We continue to use and structure our learning environments in isolation and in silos with very little transferability and connectedness. Our classrooms have four walls and are packed with uncomfortable desks. Schools are designed with a segmented approach and most information that is presented is not presented with context and connection to other classes, but rather presented in isolation. The gap between the ‘real-world’ and the ‘school-world’ couldn’t be more apparent, but fortunately, the same advances that are widening this gap also have the ability to shrink the gap.

6). We say we want people to try new things and we say we want our kids to take risks but yet our actions tell a completely different story. Instead of punishing students and educators for taking risks and finding limits to their abilities, we should be encouraging kids and educators to explore, discover, and attempt what has never been done. On a related note, when we reward and recognize simple ‘compliance’ and ‘robot like behavior,’ we are sending the same basic message.

7). We know that incentives and ‘carrots’ only work for a short time and are not long-term solutions to issues in education. Despite us knowing that best case scenario it a short-term boost, we continue to use these incentives and are conditioning students to always ask, ‘what’s in it for me’ and ‘what do I get when I’m done?’

8). We know a free-thinking and independent mind is the path to prosperity, but yet we continue to approach education as if it’s only for certain folks in certain areas. We need to focus on creating learning opportunities for all… even more so for those folks who wouldn’t otherwise have these opportunities. Education should be and needs to be a societal gap minimizer and equalizer, not a reminder of our differences…

“The Education Department’s strange new report on teaching”

“The Education Department’s strange new report on teaching”

by Valerie Strauss

One of the most controversial issues in public education today is the use of “value-added measures” to evaluate teachers and principals. What these measures, known as VAM, purportedly do is to calculate the “value” of a teacher in student achievement through complicated formulas that use student standardized test scores as a base. Assessment experts have repeatedly warned that VAM should not be used for any high-stakes decisions because the results are unreliable but that hasn’t stopped school reformers from VAM anyway in systems across the country, with support from the Obama administration.

This makes you wonder why the Education Department would release its new report titled “Do Disadvantaged Students Get Less Effective Teaching?” which is a synthesis of three former studies that used “value-added measures” to define effective teaching. As  teacher and blogger Larry Ferlazzo notes in this post that the report is based on “discredited science.” In fact, the report itself notes some VAM limitations:

“Value added” is a teacher’s contribution to students’ learning gains. Because individual researchers have varied in their presentation of this evidence, it is challenging for practitioners to draw lessons from the data….

Value-added indicators, increasingly promoted by policy (for example, U.S. Department of Education 2012; Tennessee Department of Education 2013; Hillsborough County Public Schools 2011), do have limitations. Because they rely exclusively on student test scores as an outcome measure, they are not meant to capture all aspects of a teacher’s performance, and they can only be estimated for teachers whose students take standardized tests. They tell us about teachers’ average impact on their students’ test scores after accounting for students’ background and prior achievement. But value-added indicators assume that a teacher has the same impact on all of his or her students.

There may be differences in how teachers devote their time to different students within the classroom that are not captured by the studies we describe here. Also, there may be unmeasured influences, such as the sorting of students across classrooms, that value-added indicators fail to account for (Rothstein 2009). Despite their limitations, however, value-added indicators have been shown to predict teachers’ future performance (Kane and Staiger 2008; Kane et al. 2013)and long-term student outcomes (Chetty et al. 2011).

Actually, the last sentence is highly debatable. But there’s more to the report to question. In fact, Ferlazzo calls the reseachers’ conclusions “astounding.”

From his blog post:

Ferlazzo further wrote:

Let me get this straight.

“School reformers,” including Arne Duncan, are alienating millions of teachers and hurting countless students and their families over a teacher evaluation policy that — using their own prize methodology (ignorant that we may believe it to be) — affects 2 to 4 percent of the achievement gap?

Of course, and unfortunately, Duncan’s ignoring his own department’s research is no surprise, considering he’s doing the same by pushing merit pay even though his department  announced last September that out of three approved studies of a New York performance pay program, one showed across the board negative effects on student achievement; another showed negative effects in some areas and no effect in others; and a third one showed no effect at all.

And that his same department has previously concluded that 90% of the elements that affect student test scores are outside the control of teachers.


If school reformers really believe that standardized test scores are such a great way to evaluate, you’d think they would find the conclusions of this report sobering. Don’t hold your breath.

Accidents Don’t Happen, They Are Caused…

Accidents Don’t Happen, They Are Caused…

…and why this matters in business as much as life.

by Zohare Haider

Often I have been in situations, mostly while growing up, where I blamed everything and anything but myself for whatever happened, unless the outcome was good. This was the birth of not giving credit where it was truly due, but also not recognizing the importance of taking responsibility.

Anecdotes are a lot like old wives tales or urban myths. We can stretch it as far as a striking comparison with superstition. The parallels are quite simple – really just different ways of looking at things. Like Robin Williams did in ‘Dead Poet’s Society’, change your perspective, stand on top of the table. They help by guiding us through situations plain, simple words cannot otherwise do.

This morning I got my daily email news from a widely read Pakistani newspaper, where a headline read, “17 schoolchildren killed in accident”. The article is about how two large vehicles collided, one of them carrying the 17 kids destined for death today. Some say when your time comes, it was actually written sometime back by some unknown scribes. I haven’t prescribed to this thinking. The accident wasn’t an accident, just as their death wasn’t an accident; it all could have been avoided.

I like to think that there is more to life than just conforming to rules others set for you, whether religious, social, academic or professional. No, that does not mean I prescribe to rebellion, although I have been known to condone such acts occasionally.

Go out and take a risk. Do something different. Be a salmon. Buy a Dodge Charger, despite the myths of after-purchase market value or spare part prices.

How else will you know there’s yet another way to do it, right or almost? Math is pretty boxed in with all those formulas. Yet, every once in a while, a rebellious mathematician presents another way to crack the code. I hated math, never was any good at it.

There is always a method to the madness and it’s not accidental. The first step to recognizing this is learning to take responsibility for your individual actions. We may or may not be born good, but we do have a lifetime to correct it with all the messages shrouding our everyday. You could be daft to miss them, for which you still remain responsible, whether or not you choose to accept.

Step back, take a look at the macro before analyzing the granularity of the micro. After all, it just took one caveman to be ‘different’.

Teaching Martin Luther King, Jr.

Teaching Martin Luther King, Jr.

by Emma Earnst

I used to “celebrate” Martin Luther King Day by reading a book to my students on the Friday before they were out of school for the national holiday. After reading it, I would talk about his accomplishments and the impact of his contributions to American culture. I felt like I was really helping my kids to understand the significance of this great man! Once I started teaching using the Core Knowledge Sequence and the CKLA [Core Knowledge Language Arts] program, I realized that as good as my intentions were in years past, I had merely exposed my students to Dr. King and just skimmed the surface.

—Cathy Kinter

As Cathy Kinter, a second-grade teacher turned curriculum coordinator at Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy, notes, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day provides teachers with a timely opportunity to teach about the civil rights leader. But she also raises a crucial point: teaching content according to the calendar can lead to superficial learning.

What to do? By using both the Core Knowledge Sequence and CKLA to create a content-specific, coherent, grade-by-grade curriculum, teachers at Thomas Jefferson have solved the calendar dilemma. Every teacher knows that King and the U.S. civil rights movement are taught in depth twice: in second grade and in eighth grade. As a result, teachers in other grades are free to use the national holiday to celebrate King; they make connections to the content they are teaching without taking on the responsibility of teaching a full unit on King—or worrying that they are just skimming the surface.

In her kindergarten classroom, for example, Jan Tucker introduces her students to King and extends their recently acquired knowledge of fictional characters by drawing comparisons:

We make connections back to our previous read-alouds from CKLA such as King Midas, Cinderella, etc. We discuss what we must to do accomplish our dreams: the sacrifices and the successes. As the children are working, we discuss how they are not learning all of the information about Martin Luther King and they will learn a lot more about his contributions in second grade.

In first grade, Terrany Wright’s students discover more about King, while building enthusiasm for further studies of him the next year:

I read a book on Tuesday after the students were off for the holiday (I do this because I want my students to begin by making a personal connection to Dr. King before I even read about him). I begin by asking the students if they know why they did not have school yesterday. My line of questioning will vary depending upon the answers they give me, but I always want my students to “figure out” that they were off from school because of the effort and contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: the man they are going to hear about in the book. I attempt to increase my students’ attention and enthusiasm by telling them that Dr. King was such an important man in American History that they are going to learn even more about him in second grade!

In second grade, Thomas Jefferson students preview King on his national holiday, and then study him in more detail during the Fighting for a Cause domain. This domain follows a whole series—starting in kindergarten—of U.S. history domains. As such, students use their knowledge of the Constitution, slavery, the U.S. Civil War, and segregation to reach an understanding of how King’s vision and leadership helped (and is still helping) make America more equitable and free. Says second grade teacher Heidi Cole,

If the goal is true understanding of Civil Rights, it is logical to acknowledge the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and inform students that they will soon be learning why this man is such a significant hero to our world. Later in the year, when teaching about him within the context of the Fighting for a Cause domain, students can be reminded that we celebrated his legacy with a national holiday in January.

Benefiting from students’ deeper understanding of King, the civil rights movement, and the larger premise that all men are created equal, third-grade teachers use Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to revisit and reinforce those concepts. Teachers Alenia Scism and Cecelia Greengrass even connect King to what they are learning in the Ancient Roman Civilization domain. Says Scism,

I start by helping the students recall what they learned about Dr. King and his accomplishments in second grade. Then, I read the book March On! by Christine King Farris. The children will write about a dream they have and what they are going to do to make their dream a reality. I connect the contributions of MLK back to the Ancient Rome domain where there were different classes of people (patricians, plebeians, slaves) and they were treated differently and had different rights.

By eighth grade, students have the broad knowledge needed to grasp King’s place in the pantheon of leaders seeking greater equality. History teacher Eric Scriggs explains,

I teach about Martin Luther King during the Civil Rights domain, which is in February. Prior to this, I introduce him in relation to Thoreau and Ghandi. I also connect his achievements in regard to the 15th Amendment as we study the Constitution. We cover Jackie Robinson, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and Cesar Chavez in the same unit which ties into the Fighting for a Cause domain from second grade.

The teachers at Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy are making the most of their carefully constructed curriculum. By using Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a time to introduce and remember the great civil rights leader, they’ve built their students enthusiasm for a deeper dive into his life and legacy.

College Rankings Really Do Influence Which Schools Students Apply To

College Rankings Really Do Influence Which Schools Students Apply To

by Eleanor Barkhorn

A new study shows that being on the U.S. News & World Report
top 25 list can significantly boost a college’s applicant numbers.

“Ignore the U.S. News & World Report college rankings,” we admonished when the latest edition of the list came out last fall. The rankings encourage colleges to game the system! They drive up tuition! They exacerbate status anxiety!

A new report from the American Educational Research Association shows that (sigh) no one is listening to us. Rankings published by U.S. News and the Princeton Review have a significant effect on where students apply to college.

The study found that both quality-of-life and academic rankings affected students’ application decisions. The number of applications and the academic competitiveness of a school’s freshman class went up the year after the school made the Princeton Review’s list for Happy Students (a 2.9 percent increase) or Most Beautiful Campus (a 2.3 percent increase). Applications and competitiveness went down when the school was on the Least Happy Students (about a 5 percent decrease) or Unsightly, Tiny Campus lists (a 5.2 percent decrease).

The Princeton Review’s Party Schools, Stone-Cold Sober Schools, and Jock Schools lists, on the other hand, didn’t have a statistically significant effect on a school’s volume of applicants.

Academic rankings can have an even greater effect than the quality-of-life lists. Being on U.S. News’s top 25 list led a school’s applications to go up between six and 10 percent. The authors note that “the actual numerical ranking, however, does not predict the volume of applications.” Instead, “making the list … is the strongest predictor of changes in applications.” The Princeton Review’s top 20 Best Overall Academic Experience list is also influential, though less so than U.S. News’s top 25—applications go up by 3.2 percent the next year when a school is on that list.

What accounts for the influence of these lists? Why do so many high-school students use them to guide their college-application decisions? The study’s authors have a theory: The rankings provide much-needed information in a confusing process. “Some students (and their parents) have limited information about aspects of particular colleges, especially if they do not know recent attendees,” the authors write. “Guidebook information should be particularly influential when other forms of research—for example, campus visits, discussions with current students or alumnae—are relatively costly.”

This is yet another reminder of the importance of good college counseling in schools—a service that is all too often lacking, especially in the low-income districts that need it most. If students and their families don’t have access to alums and can’t afford to make lots of campus visits, they’ll turn to the most visible, readily available alternate resource: college rankings of dubious real value.

10 Places Unhappy People Search for Happiness

10 Places Unhappy People Search for Happiness

by Marc Chernoff

This past holiday season, my wife Angel and I stayed at a hotel near her parent’s house in South Florida.  On Christmas Eve we met a family of six who were staying at the same hotel.  We saw them relaxing in the lobby by the Christmas tree, sharing stories and laughing.  So on our way out, Angel and I wished them a happy holiday season and asked them where they were from.  “Oh, we’re from here,” the mother said.  “Our house burned down to the ground yesterday, but miraculously, all of us made it out safely.  And that makes this a very merry Christmas.”

Her words and her family’s optimistic attitude made me smile.  They reminded me that the most fulfilling moments in life come when we finally find the courage to let go of what we can’t change.  And that when life gives us every reason to be negative, we must think of one good reason to be positive, because there’s always something worth smiling about.

Truth be told, when people are perpetually unhappy it’s often because they are searching for happiness in the wrong places.  They look for it…

1.  In the fantasy of an easy life.

Life is tough, but you are tougher.  Pain makes you stronger.  Facing fear makes you braver.  Mistakes and heartbreak make you wiser.   Sometimes things have to go very wrong before they can be right.  Sometimes you have to go through the worst, to arrive at your best.

Your journey isn’t supposed to be easy, it’s supposed to be worth it.  To never struggle is to never grow.  It doesn’t matter what’s happened or what you’ve done; what matters is what you choose to do from here.  Accept the circumstances, learn from them, and move on.  Letting go is often a step forward.  Sometimes you have to walk away from what you thought you wanted to find what you truly need and deserve.

2.  In a past that no longer exists.

You are changing.  The universe around you is changing.  Just because something was right for you in the past doesn’t mean it still is.  This could be a relationship, a job, a home, a habit, etc.  Giving things up doesn’t always mean you’re weak; it may simply mean you’re strong enough and smart enough to let go of the old to make way for the new.  Don’t stress about the closed doors behind you.  New doors are opening every moment and you will see them if you keep moving forward.

As the Dalai Lama once said, “A new way of thinking has become the necessary condition for responsible living and acting.  If we maintain obsolete values and beliefs, a fragmented consciousness and self-centered spirit, we will continue to hold onto outdated goals and behaviors.” (Read Buddha’s Brain.)

3.  In a future that isn’t guaranteed.

Too often we spend our energy stuck in the maze of life, thinking about how we’ll escape one day, and how amazing it will be.  And imagining a future like this keeps us going, or so it seems.  But we never escape.  We simply use thoughts of the future to escape the present, over and over again, until we’ve reached the end of our lives without ever having truly lived.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The future depends on what you do today.”  Nothing could be closer to the truth.  Do something today!  You can’t stop the future.  You can’t rewind the past.  The only way to live is to press play.  Go ahead and press play!  The clock is ticking – the hours are going by.  The past increases and the future recedes, possibilities decreasing and regrets mounting… but only if you hesitate to accept and enjoy your life right now while you’re living it.

4.  In their own excuses for procrastinating.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to stop saying “I wish,” start saying “I will,” and then go do something about it.  The world isn’t going to dominate itself.  You just have to wake up one morning and decide that you don’t want to feel like this anymore, ever again.  And then make a change, just like that.

In all walks of life, luck happens when preparation meets opportunity.  And opportunity dances only with those who are already on the dance floor.

If something doesn’t have space in your day, it probably won’t happen in your life.  Knowing isn’t enough; you must apply.  Willing isn’t enough; you must DO.  If all you can do right now is a little bit, do it.  Those little bits will add up quickly.  Value that is built over time, in small increments, tends to be value that also lasts for a long time.  Doing something, even if it is just a little bit, is infinitely more productive than doing nothing.

5.  In their super comfy comfort zone.

You may feel comfortable bobbing around in the little lake that you’re used to, but if you don’t stretch your comfort zone and venture out into the adjoining waterways, you’ll never discover the beauty and immensity of the ocean – you will never even know it exists.  Holding on to what’s comfortable may be the very reason you often feel like something is missing in your life.

Remember, just because you venture out into the world doesn’t mean you can’t return home whenever you want to.  It’s okay to come back to where you started, but it’s NOT OKAY to never leave.  (Read Start: Punch Fear in the Face.)

6.  In material possessions they don’t need.

You can never, ever get enough of what you do NOT need to make you happy.  Think about it.  It’s nice to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s also important to make sure you haven’t lost track of the priceless things money can’t buy.  You don’t need a lot of money to lead a rich life.  Good friends and a loving family are worth their weight in gold.  It really is the little things that mean the most… like a long hug at just the right time.

Instead of focusing so intently on what you want to get, consider the things you can let go of.  Eliminate some excess baggage, lighten your load and feel a weight lifted.  So many of the things you think you need you do not need at all, you simply want them.  And as your wants diminish, your freedom and abundance grow.  Challenge your impulses, and free yourself of needless needs.

7.  In waaaay too much of one good thing.

As Oscar Wilde once said, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

Eating too much makes you obese.  Spending too much money makes you broke.  Working too much leaves your family at home missing you.  Playing too much leaves important work undone…  and so on and so forth.

Happiness depends on the proper distribution of applying your positive resources consciously to the hungry deficits in your life.  All details aside, the important thing to remember is this:  Long-term happiness is never found in one good thing; it is a combination, it is a balanced lifestyle.

8.  In the wrong relationships.

Know that it’s less important to have more relationships and more important to have quality ones.  Spend time with people who make you better.  Surround yourself with those who are going to lift you higher.  You will only ever be as great as the people you surround yourself with, so be brave enough to let go of those who keep bringing you down.  Find people who respect you as much as you respect them.  Nurture your relationships only with those who are happy and proud to have you in their lives.

You deserve it.  Don’t settle.

9.  In the endorsements of those who don’t matter.

Keep up your dignity and always be true to yourself.  You can’t let other people tell you who you are.  You have to decide that for yourself.

There will always be people who don’t approve of you – the way you look, the way you talk, the things you care about, the styles you like, the music you listen to, etc.  But the truth is these people’s opinions don’t matter one bit.  It’s up to you if you let them ruin your day, or if you decide to stand up for yourself and accept yourself just the way you are.  Just be sincere and do your best.  And if it’s not good enough for someone, it will surely be for someone else.  You’re not here to please everyone.  Be nice, be yourself, and the right people will eventually find you.  (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the“Relationships” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)

10.  In the blame game.

Sigmund Freud once said, “Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.”  Don’t let this be you.  When you blame others for what you’re going through, you deny responsibility – you surrender full power over that part of your life.

In reality, the price of happiness and greatness IS responsibility.  And no one else is responsible for you.  You are in full control of your life so long as you claim it and own it.  Through the grapevine, you may have learned that you should blame your parents, your teachers, your mentors, the public education system, the government, etc., but never to blame yourself.  Right?  It’s never, ever your fault… WRONG!  It’s always your fault, because if you want to change – if you want to grow and move on with your life – the only person who can make it happen is YOU.

Human emotions mapped for the first time

Human emotions mapped for the first time,
shows where we feel love, fear, & shame
By Zoe Mintz

Emotions Mapped In The Human Body, ‘Most Accurate’
Visualization Of Emotion-Related Bodily Sensations

In a new study, Finnish researchers found a way to map the way feelings affect the human body.

The findings, published in in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, reveals how emotions are more than mental states. Using data collected from 773 participants, researchers connected emotions with which areas in the body felt increasing or decreasing activity.

Participants were given computer-modeled body silhouettes next to emotional words, stories, movies, or facial expressions. They were asked to bold the bodily regions where they felt activity using different colors – red and yellow for intensity and shades of blue for dullness.

The 14 different emotions including anger, fear, love and depression show which areas of the body experience the strongest emotions. Researchers found each emotion was expressed differently in the body – and that among different West European and East Asian cultures the reactions remained the same.

“These maps constitute the most accurate description available to date of subjective emotion-related bodily sensations,” researchers wrote in the study. “Our data highlight that consistent patterns of bodily sensations are associated with each of the six basic emotions, and that these sensations are represented in a categorical manner in the body.”

Researchers were surprised to discover that unlike other emotions that can be pinpointed to specific parts of the body – such as feelings in the throat region for disgust –happiness was felt all over the body. Meanwhile, feelings of anger and fear brought strong emotions to the chest, sadness and depression showed dullness in the legs and feet.

The findings are considered a major step forward in understanding how emotions work in the human body. The result from the study could advance the study of emotional disorders and the tools to diagnose them. For instance, mapping emotions could help develop biomarkers for different disorders and play a role in treating – like smile therapy for those with symptoms of anxiety.


Teaching Resilience: Imagination

Teaching Resilience: Imagination

by Kevin D. Washburn

Samantha exhales and brings her hands to the sides of her forehead. Her thoughts begin a downward spiral. “I can only get so far before I don’t know what to do next. I’m not good at writing. I never have been, and don’t think I ever will be.” Her teacher, Mr. Williams, watches her pencil drop to the desk and recognizes the look of surrender on her face. Undaunted, he approaches her desk…

Mindset and resilience share leading roles on the educational research stage. It is nearly impossible to attend a conference, walk through its exhibits or even listen to public radio without hearing about one or both of these topics. Second to educational technology, cognitive psychology is education’s current box office blockbuster.

And rightfully so. The finding that an individual’s perspective on intelligence and response to failure significantly influence effort, and therefore achievement, holds great potential if we can identify ways to apply the findings in teaching.

Before we can identify classroom strategies, we need to understand the underpinnings of resilience. A tripod, with its three-fold support, offers an effective metaphor for resilience. One leg is imagination. The other two are reflection and attention (and the subject of future posts). Together they provide the stability that empowers resilience.


Imagination enables visualization, the ability to generate mental images of situations that do not currently exist or situations that have occurred in the past, and to mentally see oneself within them. Whether its calculating 2 + 2 or crossing the finish line at 26.2, when accomplishing becomes challenging, imagining the future fires up the hope that sustains effort.

Daniel Goleman explains that contemplating positive goals propels us forward; in contrast, thinking and talking about weaknesses and struggles prompts a defensive response that is likely to diminish additional effort. “A conversation that starts with a person’s dreams and hopes can lead to a learning path yielding that vision.”1 Imagining the future influences the present.

Training the imagination

Since it plays a role in resilience, how do we foster students’ imagination abilities?

Strategy 1: Don’t show the pictures

In our increasingly visual world, young people are less practiced in imagining things that are described in words. “Why try to imagine the prairie described in “Sarah, Plain and Tall,” the thinking goes, “when video clips are available?” Even on road trips, those hours when observation and imagination enriched young minds until it was okay to again ask, “Are we there yet?” children stare at on-board or hand-held screens where someone else’s imagination feeds their car-confined senses.

One effective way to train imagination is to read children stories without showing them the illustrations. During initial readings, encourage students to imagine the scenes being described. Then, at a later reading, share the illustrations and discuss how the artist’s rendered scenes differ from the students’ imagined ones. (Note: certain illustrated books are dependent on the illustrations to form a cohesive story. Obviously such books are not good choices for this activity. However, many illustrated books and most chapter books work well for imagining first, seeing second.)

Strategy 2: Ignore the key words

Word problems are short stories that require a mathematical response. When introducing a new set of word problems, read them aloud and have students close their eyes and visualize what is described. As an extension, have the students do quick sketches of the various elements — e.g., frame one shows Fred with 3 balloons; frame two shows Frances with 4 balloons. Once the scenario is visualized, choosing the correct mathematical operation(s) becomes a decision based on conceptual understanding rather than gimmick. If we emphasize “key words” to guide children’s thinking, we have not engaged their imaginations nor equipped them for real-life, where scenarios do not come with key words. Visualizing reveals the patterns that direct action.

Imagination feeds conceptual understanding, and using it increases a student’s visualization capacity, which can be used to nurture resilience.

Strategy 3: Put yourself in the picture

“Imagine you are Thomas Edison,” the teacher prompts. “It seems like you have tried 10,000 different ways and combinations of materials to create an incandescent light bulb that will burn for more than a few minutes or hours. What are you thinking? What scenes might be playing out in your mind? What do you tell yourself to get yourself to keep trying?” Imagined scenarios like this, whether taken from history or works of fiction, encourage learners to see themselves and explore their mental “conversations” within a safe and engaging environment — i.e., since I am not Thomas Edison, I have nothing to lose by imaging myself playing the role.

Mental conversation matters. A recent study found that individuals who either told themselves motivational (e.g., I can run faster) or instructional messages (e.g., Run tall and breathe every third step), outperformed individuals who did not engage in either form of self-talk.2 Researchers also suggest that mental dialogue fills about 25% of our conscious experience. The messages we feed ourselves for a quarter of our waking hours influence our efforts and results. Practicing positive self-talk within a non-threatening scenario, such as imagining one’s self as a historical figure, 1) provides reference points of resilience, and 2) encourages an affirmative and effective response to challenge. By imagining themselves in challenging situations, students mentally role-play the processes they will need to use when confronted with setback and difficulty.

Strategy 4: Guide their thinking

Finally, we can help students develop their imaginations and fortify their resilience by guiding their thinking, especially when challenges arise. Research suggests two images in the mind’s eye spark effort: first, the motivational image of overcoming the challenge and second, the series of images (the “mental movie”) that present the steps, sequence and flow necessary for accomplishment.

Elite marathon runners reportedly use this combination of thoughts throughout entire races. Rather than noticing the scenery on the sides or the TV trucks ahead, these runners move through a mental checklist, repeatedly reminding themselves of their race goals and the adjustments in their running forms and paces required to put the goal within reach. They rehearse what can be and what needs to be to make the first vision a possibility. They think, “goal, strategy, current actions,” and adjust accordingly.

This approach also works in the classroom. For example, Samantha (“Sam”), the fifth-grade student introduced in the opening, struggles to revise her writing by minimizing adverb use. She knows she needs to make changes, but she is frustrated in her attempts. As Mr. Williams (“Mr. W.”), her teacher, kneels next to her desk, the following conversation takes place:

Mr. W.: It seems like you are frustrated. Tell me why.

Sam: I know that I need to revise my writing, but I don’t know how to find and get rid of my unnecessary adverbs.

Mr. W.: Okay, that’s helpful for you to recognize and for me to know. Let’s step back a moment. Close your eyes and imagine yourself making these revisions so well that your finished writing is outstanding. When you imagine that, what do you see?

Sam: I see myself feeling good about how I’ve told my story. I think I would be happy, knowing that my writing was the best it could be, at least with how I use adverbs.

Mr. W.: Okay, let’s work toward making that scene really happen. Imagine that you are looking at a sentence of your own writing. Watch yourself working through the process and tell me what you do.

Sam: Well, I read the sentence. And then I look at each word in it and underline any adverbs.

Mr. W.: Okay, once the adverbs are identified, what do you do? What do you see yourself doing next?

Sam: I’m not sure. I can find the adverbs, but I don’t know what to do next. My mental movie ends right there.

Mr. W.: Okay, that’s helpful! The problem is that we’ve only done the first steps in the strategy. We still have some actions we need to take. Let’s discuss the remaining steps so you will be able to complete them to make this good story even better!

From there, Mr. Williams can provide Samantha with the necessary instruction and practice. By engaging a student in imagining the accomplishment and the process, a teacher can identify instructional needs and engage the student in continued effort to achieve the imagined outcome. This does not need to be lengthy to be effective. The teacher need not create an elaborate context for the student to envision. Simply getting the student to see him/herself overcoming the challenge and strategizing how to make that imagined scene reality kindles a resilient mindset, which empowers the effort needed to advance, to learn, to master.

However, the motivational and instructional power of the mental images remains unavailable if students are not accustomed to or practiced in using their imaginations. Resilient action arises from envisioning what can be and from identifying the steps to get there. Imagination is the launch pad of resilience.

5 helpful strategies for self-reflection

5 helpful strategies for self-reflection

by Justin Tarte

One of the beauties of education is that we get the opportunity to try and explore new ideas.  In fact, we are encouraged to think outside of the box to discover new and improved ways to engage, inspire and motivate students.  Moreover, when we have new ideas and solutions to problems, we are forcing ourselves to evaluate and assess our current practices.
A fancy word that all educators have heard (some so much it makes them sick) is “reflection.”  At the risk of potentially sickening more educators throughout the world, I would like to reemphasize the importance of self-reflection by providing 5 helpful strategies as they pertain to “reflection,” and our unyielding pursuit of improving education.

1 – Ask yourself if your actions truly represent your beliefs and opinions…

The first step in self-reflection is to really evaluate and assess what you are doing, and how you are doing it.  Looking into the mirror and being honest with yourself is crucial as you determine the consistency of your beliefs and actions.  Most people realize quite quickly that they do very well with certain situations, while other situations are definite weak spots that could use improvement.  If we are saying one thing and doing something completely different, it is time to change and align our actions with our beliefs.

2 – Accept the fact that what once worked perfectly, might not be the best approach for now…

As educators we are bombarded with new ideas and so called “silver bullets” promising a quick fix to educational issues.  With all of these new ideas, it is easy to slide into a comfort zone to avoid the ever terrible issue of “change.”  It is unavoidable, but we all get comfortable with certain strategies and methods, and as the educational setting evolves and changes, we have to be willing to update and modify our approach to educating students.  As hard as this may be, we can not ignore that the students are different, and similarly we are different, and as a result our approach and methodology must be different.

3 – Include others as you begin the self-reflection process.  People are very willing to help when you ask for their advice and assistance…

It is human nature to be somewhat biased toward your own strengths and weaknesses, and because of this it is extremely important to obtain assistance from others as you move closer to self-reflection.  The best thing about recruiting others to help you in your endeavor is that most people will give you honest advice and feedback since they know they are an integral part of your self-improvement.  Additionally, there are things other people see and notice about you that provide insight into who you really are as an educator.

4 – You are like a “living document,” and as such you should be in a constant state of change…

Rethink, reinvent, reinvigorate, redevelop, redeploy, renew, reemphasize and any other word that prevents you from being a ‘static’ educator.  Just as kids are continually changing and evolving, we as educators need to remain flexible and adaptable.

5 – Remember that self-reflection is an essential piece to growing and developing as an educator…

Almost everything we do in education requires an evaluation along with reflection.  A new program, a new idea, a tweaking of an assessment, and any other piece of education we use to help students should be subject to reflection and evaluation.  There is no greater tool than sitting down and thinking about what happened, why it happened, and how we can make it better and improve upon it for the next time.  Sharing and collaborating through self-reflection will continue to be one of the most important resources for educators, and with the advancements in technology and communication tools, the process is getting a lot easier!

Remember, when you think you have it mastered, perfected, or you just feel really comfortable, it is time to self-reflect and time to evaluate your current practices.
The great educators and the great minds of the future will be those who get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Similarly, the great educators and the great minds of the future will be those who plan and act with purpose, rather than simply acting out of necessity…