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Friday, March 17, 2017

Can Your Unspoken-Thoughts Physically Impact Others?

I can teach you how to change the behavior of others. You can actually change how they act. No, it doesn't require a weekend retreat with Yoda trying to move boxes or lift your star-fighter out of a bog (Star Wars fans, I'm sure it's not really called a star-fighter, please don't send hate mail.)

Researcher Bob Rosenthal scientifically demonstrated this, first with rats. He labeled some as smart and some as dumb without telling anyone. When they were put in a Skinner Box, the "smart" ones completed the task twice as fast as the "dumb" ones. Problem is, they were the exact same ordinary white lab rats. 
So, the question then is: Why did they perform better?
Answer: because of the perceptions of the people handling the rats. Researchers touched the "smart" rats more, treated them more warmly, even talked to them differently. The Pygmalion EffectA type of self-fulfilling prophecy where if you think something will happen, you may unconsciously make it happen through your actions or inaction. 

Carol Dweck, (psychology researcher at Stanford, Author, Growth Mindset), in this recent podcast said when we have negative expectations or perceptions we usually stand further away from people, we touch them less, make less eye contact. And we are COMPLETELY UNAWARE of how our expectations impact the way we engage people.

Our perceptions and expectations (our thoughts) literally move people.
There are many studies showing the impact of how people perform in relation to how they are expected to perform. Even the very labels placed on them impact their performance. Read about "Brown Eyes vs. Blue Eyes" experiment or watch this documentary. This obviously takes the thinking concept and brings it to a whole new level, but it still applies to my Jedi-way of thinking. Read this article/watch videos (Warning: 2nd video has a swear word) on how thoughts impacted rice in water. 

Rosenthal did an experiment similar to the rats but with teachers. They were told they could expect X from this group of students and Y from the other. Rosenthal found that "teachers appear to teach more and to teach it more warmly to students for whom they have more favorable expectations." 
-How are you using your powers? 
-Are your students performing better because you
 have positive perceptions and expectations for them? 
-Or are you, without even knowing it, 
actually causing them to perform worse?
-DO YOUR STUDENTS BELIEVE 
THAT YOU BELIEVE IN THEM??

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Sharks will either make you better....or eat you. (a repost)


Fishing boats will often travel for days and days to find that prize catch. The problem they encountered was, when traveling 3-4 days back to unload their catch, their prize fish were no longer valuable. They spent so much time floating around in their little container, swimming in the same waters, they lost their muscle tone. Stagnant. Complacent. In a rut. This is how we have always done things.

So fisherman started adding sharks to the tanks in the boats. Sure, a few fish were eaten, but the rest stayed active and alive. Adding sharks improved their success.

Admin: Hire sharks. Anyone can join the pack, follow in line, do what the others do. But NO ONE IMPROVES. We need to hire employees that will challenge and extend our teams.

Teachers: change things up, for you and your students. Routines are valuable, but are they routine because it's easy for you, or are they routines that still challenge students. How many times during the school day do you make your students uncomfortable by challenging their thinking? How many times a day are you challenged, chased by a shark?

Parents: there are good "sharks" you can throw into the mix: engaging and fun summer learning programs; academic rewards for students making academic gains (ex. if they read a book, their reward is you buy them a new book, or check out a new book from the library); find ways to challenge your child to get them outside of their comfort zones. It's good for them.

I'm both a stick and a carrot guy. Sharks would work great for me. But I also like having that reward dangling for me to work towards. Find what your team needs, what your students need, what your child needs. But whatever it is they need to be motivated, you need to motivate them.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

What if you had to pay for your kids to attend public school?

We had the Matsiko World Orphan's choir here again in Jan. We were one of their very first performances together last school year, and we were fortunate enough to see them at the very end of their year-long adventure this year, only weeks before they left for home. Their homes are in Peru, Liberia and India. They leave the comforts of warm clothes and hot food and hope, to a situation of despair and struggle, poverty and helplessness.

An education that we often take for granted in the US is a luxury in their countries, where students can attend school and earn an education if they can afford it. Do you see the problem with this? People in poverty can't afford to attend school, which can educate them, and liberate them from the bonds of poverty. The mission of this choir is to "provide as many of our world's 600 million orphaned and at-risk children sponsorship for a complete education through their nation's highest university or vocational levels."

Our Art teacher, Ms. Howard, along with the help of a few others, took it upon themselves to "adopt" as many of these these orphans as they could, in order to help them receive an education upon their return. We have staff members, and parents of students who are making donations. We know it's a financial burden to pay for a whole donation, so Ms. Howard is coordinating a month-by-month donation. If 12 people donate $35 each, we can provide an education for one child. Like they've done with Ruth already.



If you'd like to help, please don't hesitate to contact me (robdarling@selahschools.org) so I can put you in touch with Ms. Howard, or go directly to the Matsiko website

I know we do a lot for our students in our classrooms and schools. But why not do just a little bit more for students all across the globe? 


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Attendance Matters!

Our goal at JCP is to have 95% attendance for every student. (We understand that kids will always get sick and need to miss a day or two.) We've even started posting our daily attendance around the main entrance points on campus to make parents aware. 
We had a group of 1st grade teachers who found a correlation between student growth in reading and their attendance rates. Here’s what they found:

  • Students who were gone 8 or more days, about two weeks of school (that is roughly 10% or more of our year so far,) grew an average of 2 reading levels over the first 90+ days of school. It didn’t matter if these students were struggling or strong readers.
  • Students who were gone less than 8 days grew an average of 6 reading levels over the first 90+ days of school.
Yes, you are reading that correctly. Those students who had better attendance increase their reading levels 3x's more than their peers with poor attendance. And this growth was the same whether the student was an advanced reader, or a struggling reader.

If their attendance rates remain the same, students with more absences will increase only 4 reading levels, while the group of students with less will increase 12. Which group do you think will be more prepared to the rigor of second grade?

If they're "big" sick, please keep them home. But with the sniffles, or a bad case of extra-whiney, please sent the our way. We can deal with the whining and snot. They can wipe their noses on their sleeves as they read, we're ok with that. 😀

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Please, help students fail...

Your best teacher was your last mistake. (the internet says many different people are the author of this quote, pick your favorite.)

When you make a mistake often times you have immediate data, immediate feedback. Having spent 7 years as a pavement maintenance contractor, I have to admit that I made mistakes when striping parking lots and roads, but nothing as ironic or visible as this:
Sometimes our mistakes are very public. Sometimes we don't realize they are mistakes until some time later. But I bet the gentlemen (sorry guys, but I'm assuming a lady didn't make this one) who made this mistake will never misspell a certain word, ever again!

As an adult, the success of my professional life (and my parenting and husband-ing, for that matter) hinges on minimizing my mistakes. The way I do this is by using all of my knowledge and experience to make the best decision I can, in the most timely manner possible. Much of that knowledge and experience was gained by doing it the wrong way, many times. Hopefully I have remembered all of the wrong ways I did it in the past, or the wrong ways I've seen others do it to make sure this decision/action is better than before. 

The phrase "Well, I'll never do that again!" is powerful. You did something wrong, and you learned something valuable from it. 

From a child's perspective, their whole growth process hinges not on whether they make mistakes, but how they learn and grow from them. And our reactions to their mistakes and failures play a key role. This is connected to a quote in my previous post: If the brain is unrewarded or punished for curiosity, it learns to hide, avoid risks, and stick with what is familiar and safe. (Cozzolino) If our students (children) do not feel safe enough to make a mistake, it is devastating for them when they do. They will shut down, close off, and hide.

Imagine how your child's world will be, how their learning and imagination and potential will flourish, when they know that they were free to make mistakes because they are a necessary part of learning! Imagine how much they will change the world because of the risks they are willing to take!


So, what's my point? Please let them fail. And when they do, teach them how to learn from it. And when they do it right or better the next time, praise their effort, their grit, and point out how it was because they learned from their mistake that they showed this growth. That is an amazing learning lesson they can use the rest of their lives.