Sunday, November 16, 2014

Growth-Inhibiting Behaviors

November, 2014 :

Does your child think ACES is pointless?  
What does he or she think about sentence diagraming?  
How about the  “challenge” work in 7th grade?  Are they struggling with compacted math?  
Does your child hate to show his work?

I have heard many complaints from students about assignments being unfair, pointless, or my favorite, “I already know how to do this.”

I recently called a parent to tell her that her child (who I know is gifted and brilliant) did poor quality work on an assignment that I gave him.  It wasn’t that he didn’t know how to do the work; he simply chose to cut corners and do it his way.  The mom’s response was, “When given the opportunity to grow, he needs to take advantage of  it. “  

Her answer made me think of the sad reality of public education and gifted students.  Too often our advanced learners are asked to do work that is simple and tedious for them, or they are used to getting high grades without much effort.  When they encounter work that actually challenges them, they don’t always recognize it or it scares them a little. Their response is critical to their learning.  Many students make jokes, check out or don’t pay attention, criticize the work itself, and do less than their best effort.  Teachers become disappointed because the product is not what they expect from their brightest students; parents are disappointed because their children are coming home with poor grades for the first time.   They attempt to help them, but that can be frustrating as well because they are not in class and are not aware of the teachers’ specific instructions.  Students blame the teacher because “they were never taught this.” Everybody is frustrated.

So what to do?

Make sure children are aware of what is expected from them. Their job is to learn. Sometimes this is not easy and it should not be.  Learning requires a little bit of challenge and a little bit of struggle.   Parents and teachers can support students by letting them know what is expected of them and helping them, not by doing the work for them, but allowing them the space to be frustrated, to ask questions, to be wrong, to work through problems.
Do not lower expectations.  This only confirms their own feelings of self-doubt.  Let them know that you know they can do it.

Talk with teachers about what your child is experiencing and how to help them.  Partner with the teacher so that parents and teachers both have high expectations and give similar support.

Here's some additional reading on these topics:

You are Smart vs. You Must Have Worked Hard

Gifted Students and the Growth Mindset

October, 2014
Just a thought for today - I hear many parents telling their kids how smart they are.  While this is well-intentioned, I think it also causes stress in some of our students, especially as they encounter more challenging work in middle school. For many students, middle school is the first time they truly have to struggle with new material and with deeper demands on their ability to think.   As the work gets harder, students tend to question their own smartness.  "If I can't do this, does this mean I'm not smart?" It would be better if parents could help their children understand that if they don't know something, it doesn't mean they're not smart.  Growth comes from challenging themselves and learning new material, not from knowing everything.   Here are a few articles with advice for promoting the growth mindset.