Sunday: Education Research

IMG-1281

The following is a continuation of my notes on Paul Tough’s book, How Children Succeed:

Chapter 2 HOW TO BUILD CHARACTER p. 49

 

  1. Best Class Ever – 1999 KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) Academy – 8th grade – all Black and Hispanic, most low-income, earned the highest scores of ANY school in the Bronx (just four years in the program).

Climb the Mountain to College – college was always the goal

But only 8 got a college degree

Culture shock – overwhelmed

While in KIPP, they felt and acted like a family

KIPP did not prepare them for high school emotionally or psychologically

Nobody checks your homework

 

  1. Learned Optimism p. 52

Levin noticed that the kids who succeeded in high school and graduated from college were not necessarily the highest academically. They possessed other gifts: optimism, social agility, resilience.  Levin called these CHARACTER STRENGTHS.

 

Martin Seligman – Learned Optimism – it’s a skill that can be learned, not innate

Pessimistic adults and children can train themselves to be optimistic

Will lead to more happiness, health and success

Seligman – depression is simply a severe low mood

Pessimists react to negative events by explaining them as permanent, personal and pervasive

(e.g. failed a test because you’re stupid, not because you failed to prepare)

Seligman yelled a lot, in his class

Levin did a book study with his staff. Why do some of our students feel not well-liked?

 

  1. Riverdale p. 55

Levin grew up in a ritzy area of Riverdale – he was a standout student in math and science AND the captain of the basketball team; Director of his boarding school believes CHARACTER is missing in today’s qualifications in school (grit, working hard, perseverance).

 

Daniel Goleman – Emotional Intelligence

Randolph, Seligman and Levin had a meeting – the beginning of a fruitful alliance

 

  1. Character Strengths  p. 58

Character Strengths and Virtues:  A Handbook and Classification by Seligman and Peterson

A study in character; an effort to identify (concretely) what character is

Finalized 24 character strengths they believed to be universally respected

includes : bravery, citizenship, fairness, wisdom, integrity; love, humor, zest, appreciation of beauty; day-to-day interactions (social intelligence), kindness, gratitude

 

–These virtues were chosen because they could lead to the “good life” of fulfillment and meaning – had practical benefits

Seligman and Peterson – defined character as malleable – skills you can learn and practice and teach

  • Not finger wagging or blaming, but focus on personal growth (pg. 60)

 

  1. Self-Control and Willpower

Seligman, Levin and Randolph turned to Angela Duckworth (in her PhD dissertation, after working in schools, she said the problem was not just in schools, but students themselves) “Learning is hard…it can be daunting, exhausting and sometimes discouraging…character is at least as important as intellect.”

Duckworth started her research with self-discipline: 164 8th graders.

Self-discipline levels were more indicative to GPA than IQ.

Collaborated with Walter Mischel, famous for his marshmallow test with four-year olds (delayed gratification study).

Duckworth was intrigued by this study – how did those with more self-discipline strategize or help themselves to delay gratification?

“Children who did best at this test created their own distractions.”  [Talked, sang, covered their eyes, one kid took a nap]

With simple prompts, children were able to think of the marshmallow abstractly, which led to higher success.

After a six week long course to help students develop self-discipline, students believed they improved, but they didn’t.

 

  1. Motivation

 

Marshmallows were easy…very clear goals.

High school and college graduation are not as clear or tangible.

Duckworth divided the mechanics of achievement into two: motivation and volition. BOTH are requisites.

 

What if students just aren’t motivated to achieve the goals their teachers or parents want them to achieve?

 

All the self-control tricks in the world will not help.

 

But motivation can still occur. It’s just highly complex. Rewards sometimes backfire.

 

Reward systems in schools (stickers, candy, prizes) have not been successful.

 

  1. The Coding-Speed Test  p. 66

 

No one really knows how to motivate people well.What motivates us is hard to explain and hard to measure.

 

Different personality types respond differently to different motivations.

 

The coding-speed test (Segal) actually tested the test-takers’ inclination to force themselves to care about the world’s most boring test.

It was proof that they TRIED harder. The low-stakes, low-reward test predicted how well someone is going to do in life. Over decades, Segal gave the test to the same people and in their forties, he compared their salaries. Those who scored high on this test made considerably higher salaries.

 

  1. Conscientiousness

What Segal’s study measured was conscientiousness.

Brent Roberts, U of IL (Urbana-Champaign) – reigning expert on conscientiousness

This was not studied much by researchers because it denoted “control” and nobody wants to talk about people being controlled. However, Industrial/Organizational Psychology grew into everyone’s consciousness – because companies want to hire the most productive, reliable and diligent workers they can find. They found that conscientiousness was critical.

Roberts found that people high in conscientiousness:

  • get better grades in high school and college;
  • Commit fewer crimes;
  • Stay married longer;
  • Live longer (fewer strokes, lower BP, lower incidence of Alzheimers)

The Downside of Self-Control (p. 71)

People who are critics of the education setting are not swayed by conscientiousness findings.

“Strength of character” – includes conscientiousness, responsibility, insistently orderly, determined and persevering.

  • This measure was 3x more successful in predicting college performance than SAT scores or college rank
  • Critics believe there is an inverse relationship between high GPA and creativity; that corporations want “drones” to simply follow directions and work
  • Conscientiousness and self-control go hand in hand
  • Critics (Jack Block, UC Berkeley) believes highly conscientious people are “compulsive, anxious and repressed.”
  • A New Zealand study, however, runs contrary to this finding: a three-decade long study following children into adulthood found a strong correlation between lack of self-control to (at the age of 32)- more likely to have health problems, bad credit rating and trouble with the law (3x higher than those who demonstrated self-control as young children). Also, 3x more likely to have multiple addictions and 2x as likely to raise children in a single household.

 

Education Research (cont’d)

IMG-1235
Circle Doodle

 

This post is designed mainly to hold myself accountable for research. I hope you can glean something from it at the same time. The following are my notes from Paul Tough’s book, “How Children Succeed”:

 

 

  1. Simon p. 19

 

Data has shown (for a long time) that executive function correlates with family income

But why?

    • Childhood poverty affects executive function (Cornell Univ., Gary Evans, Michelle Schamberg)
    • Working memory – ability to keep a bunch of facts in your head at the same time
    • “Simon” – children’s game
    • Kids in poverty for 10 years did worse than kids in poverty for 5
    • Evans and Schamberg also measured biological stress (They created their own allostatic load data) – BP, cortisol levels, body mass index, etc). Of kids when they were nine and then thirteen
    • When they factored out the allostatic load, poverty factor disappeared. Thus, it is not POVERTY that compromises exec-function abilities, it’s the STRESS that went with it!

 

  • Why is this important? Because in high school, college, and the workplace, life is filled with tasks where working memory is crucial to success.

 

  • Prefrontal cortex is more responsive to intervention than other parts – stays flexible into early adulthood.

 

  1. Mush

 

Early childhood – bodies and brains are most sensitive to effects of stress and trauma

Adolescence – can lead to most serious and long-lasting problems

The reason teenage years are most perilous: incentive processing system reaches full power while the cognitive control system isn’t matured until early 20s.

 

Thomas Gaston (“Mush”) kicked out and sent to Vivian E. Summers Alternative HS

He didn’t like it, but he did well

Until he carjacked someone

Potential sentence of 21 years was changed to 8 months of boot camp

Mush took his allostatic load and turned outward with violence (fighting, acting up in class). Some kids turn it inward (fear, anxiety, sadness, self-doubt).

Mush decided to “not care” after his 14 year old brother was shot and killed.

Social, economic and neurochemical factors are at play. A 10 year old vs. a 14 year old: we sympathize with the 10 year old.

 

  1. LG

 

There is an antidote to the ill effects of childhood stress!

Good parenting.

It is biochemical.

Michael Meaney (McGill University)

Rats and mothering – some were nurturing, others not.

“LG” – Licking and Grooming (High vs. Low)

It is not necessarily the biological mother, but the REARING mother’s behavior that counts.

 

  1. Attachment

 

“Methylation” – the way certain chemicals are affixed to certain sequences on DNA

Showed that subtle parenting behaviors had predictable and long-lasting DNA-related effects

  • Researchers studied brains of suicide victims – some had childhood abuse, some did not
  • Showed that childhood abuse affected DNA
  • Clancy Blair (NYU) is reinforcing the finding that high-quality mothering can act as a powerful buffer to abuse
  • Regular good parenting – being helpful and attentive – can make a profound difference for a child’s future prospects.
  • “Attachment Theory” (Bowlby and Ainsworth) 1960s and 70s – The Strange Situation: mothers would bring a child into a room, and then leave and then return. The children who greeted their mothers warmly and enthusiastically were “securely attached”. Those children who reacted with tears or anger were “anxiously attached.”
  • Ainsworth: Reactions were directly related to degree of responsiveness in first year of life.
  • “Early attachment created psychological effects that could last a lifetime.”

 

11.Minnesota

 

  • Waters and Sroufe – set up a Child Development Institute with Egeland
  • Studied 267 pregnant poor women (all first-time moms, 80% white, ⅔ unmarried, 50% teens)
  • Tracked them for 30 years
  • The Development of the Person – book is fullest evaluation of long-lasting effects of parental involvement on child’s development (2005)
  • Found: attachment theory was not absolute – sometimes anxious babies could overcome, BUT it is highly predictive of outcomes later in life
  • Anxiously attached children are more often labeled mean, antisocial and immature

 

  1. Parenting Interventions

 

Lieberman (Child Trauma Research Program at UCSF)

Believes two important ideas missing from Sroufe and Egeland study:

  1. Plainly difficult for some mothers to provide secure attachments in overwhelming life circumstances (poverty, violence, mother’s own childhood history)
  2. Parents can overcome their own histories of trauma and can change their approach but most will need help.

Lieberman’s work focuses on strengthening bond between parent and child

  • Dante Cicchetti used Lieberman’s work and took 137 families with histories of child maltreatment. Half were given a year of parent-child psychotherapy the other half given the standard community services. When children were 2, 61% of the children in psychotherapy formed secure attachment.
  • His study proves that attachment-promoting therapies work.
  • Dozier, of ABC, shows that even if just the parent receives the therapy, children benefit

 

  1. Visiting Makayla

 

Makayla – a study in focusing on mother/child attachment.

 

  1. Steve Gates

 

“There is a very direct correlation between family issues and what the kids present in school.” The focus on creating family attachments where there are none (in Roseland, for example), have many setbacks, but inspirations form and lead to success.

 

  1. Keitha Jones

 

Father was a “player” and mother addicted to cocaine.

Sexually molested in sixth grade – didn’t tell mom, afraid mom would blame her

Got angrier and angrier and took it out at school – caused fights

Got a mentor in Lanita Reed, a hair salon owner

Developed a “big sister” bond with Keitha – teaching her about manicures, pedicures, hair…

“My whole outlook on life changed” Keitha said

Instead of fighting, asked Reed what to do about girls picking on her at school

They arranged a talk and it worked – everything was resolved.

Sexual molester started touching Keitha’s sister and Keitha felt guilt – did not want her sister to be removed from home.

Reed arranged to have the man removed from the home.

Mother was not supportive (lost $300 in rent)

Keitha: “I’m not going to let my past affect my future.”

Determined to graduate, she took night classes five days a week

June 2011, she graduated and attended Truman College, a community college

“Five years from now, I picture myself in my own apartment with my own money…and my little sisters, they can live with me.”

 

 

Habitats & Habits

I feel sorry for my sixth graders.

When I was in sixth grade, the only technologies to distract me were the TV and radio. I received my beloved yellow Sony Walkman years later. But even then, in order to make a mix tape, I had to listen to the radio on my boombox and catch my favorite song, hit “record” and “stop” at just the right time.

IMG-1080

Now, the barrage of sounds and images are relentless. You can hear the voices of your peers night and day from your phone. You can catch your favorite TV or film or YouTuber or musician 24/7. Filters and editing programs make everyone look slim, smooth and shiny. 

And if you’re one of the very few who does not own a phone, you might be ostracized. You are deemed too poor or your parents are too strict. You’re square (do they say that anymore)! Regardless, laptops are ubiquitous. The temptation to enter fantasy land is everywhere

I just completed reading Eric Barker’s “Barking Up the Wrong Tree.” The book is a compelling read, replete with interesting anecdotes and scientific data to back up his various assertions regarding personal success. One of the most important tips he offers is the adage “control your environment.” A closely linked axiom: know thyself

The most successful and productive people practice this. A few examples:

  • disconnect from the internet while working;
  • place cell phone in the other room;
  • never keep junk food in the house;
  • never hit snooze – get right up (!);
  • work before pleasure;

and so on.

I remind my students that “success” – whatever they define it to be – is within their reach. But they must make a commitment to it and do the necessary work.

Now, more than ever, knowing oneself and taking actions to ensure meeting one’s potential might be the most challenging – yet important – task at hand.

 

Persevere!

As a teacher, I have many different types of students:

talented, but not diligent,

talented and diligent, and

not naturally so talented, but diligent

I do not have any untalented and non-diligent students.

It is the diligent students who meet the most success. There really is no substitute for hard work, self-discipline and care. With facts and “knowledge” readily available at our fingertips (Internet), it is not “knowing data” that will lead to success, but knowing how to use that data and knowing how to interact with people that will lead to achievement.

Grit is proven day by day, hour by hour, and on a consistent basis.

What will you be dedicated  to – every day – in 2018?

IMG-0903
Drawing practice #55 – Lower right corner – acrylic paint is not so great on black ink.

Faith

filip-mroz-250497.jpg

When it seems hopeless, envision this:

A man in his forties, dressed in his best gray suit, sits alone at the table. His eyes are on the door. Gorgeous flowers wrapped in cellophane stand stiffly in a vase of water.  He’s anxiously waiting for her.

Does she show up?

We hope she does…

And if she doesn’t? Imagine him crestfallen. Imagine his disappointment. What would you want to say to him?

***

Next, a young teenage boy is at a fast food restaurant. He orders a #4 (cheeseburger, fries, and a drink) and a #6 (chicken nuggets, fries, and a drink). He takes them to a booth and spreads them out, neatly. He waits, nervously looking at the door every time it opens. People come and go. He checks his watch four times. Thirty minutes later, he realizes she (or he) is not coming. He throws it all in a bag and heads home, dejected.

Wouldn’t you tell him he will find that special someone someday? Wouldn’t you urge him to not give up on the good in life?

Well, we’re all rooting for you, too.

 

The Power of Preparation

rmhsymxupw0-jj-thompson.jpg

Yesterday, I was in my leadership class again. My instructor – a highly esteemed retired high school Principal – handed us four packets of interview questions. There must have been 700 questions in there. We started going over a few and discussing possible answers.

I don’t know about you, but just the thought of interviews makes my palms sweat.

I felt really, really nervous at the prospect of having 10-12 people around a table asking me 20 questions. And then he said,

“If you’re really nervous before you go in, you’re not prepared.”

Yes. I knew this to be true. Sure, butterflies are normal. This is your body’s way of preparing you to be on your toes. But the shaky, can’t-think-straight nervousness you feel before you have to perform?

You’re not ready.

So whatever you’re preparing for, work it. Work hard. Put in your hours, your sweat, blood and tears. Do the research, or the workout or the practice. Give it all you’ve got and then surrender.

*Maya Angelou tip: Think of all the people who have ever loved you and the people around who love you now. When you go in for the interview, get on that stage, or go in the boxing ring, call all your loved ones to accompany you.

 

 

Falling…

zl1vo7gxocu-antti-paakkonen.jpg

I fall 1,000 times, I get up 1,001.

There’s a saying I like, although I might change two of the words:

“Winners do what losers won’t.”

I prefer: “Successful people do what the Unrealized won’t.” It’s more wordy … a bit clunky, but I don’t believe anyone is a “winner” or a “loser.” Some people have embraced courage and run with it.  Some people are still working on their courage.

Go on. Get up. Help make the world a better place. We need you.