Conversations in Education
From teacher book groups to conversations in the faculty lounge, Prep faculty and administrators think all the time about how we support our students. In this space each month we’ll provide links, resources and inspiration about teaching at Prep and education in general.
From teacher book groups to conversations in the faculty lounge, Prep faculty read and talk a lot about education. Each month we highlight a few memorable pieces or videos. Our goal is to make the process of parenting, learning and living a little saner, to put things a little more in perspective. These articles will be chosen by Prep teachers and administrators. If you want to share your ideas, feel free to comment on an individual post or contact Dean of Studies Sarah Cooper.
One Student’s Journey in Understanding Student Growth and Resilience
Several years ago, Headmaster Peter Bachmann noticed that more of his students were feeling as though their own success should be measured by what they do rather than who they are as people. Curious about this phenomenon, Bachmann found that his usual sources—from philosophy, literature and history—were insufficient. He turned to contemporary scientific research for insight.
The Flintridge Prep Community Speaker Series was also fascinated by his studies, and they invited Bachmann to speak on the topic. He agreed, on the condition that he be introduced as a teacher and a student, not as the school headmaster. The resulting presentation is a peek into a typical Bachmann Great Books lecture, one where as many questions are raised as are answered and where Tolstoy rubs noses with Carol Dweck.
While a full appreciation of Bachmann’s talk is impossible, here are a few of the takeaways.
What we say, and how we say it, has value
It may seem obvious that we have a fundamental influence on our kids’ lives, but Bachmann finds it “both terrifying and inspiring” that we have a profound ability to influence children. He references Carol Dweck, author of Mindset, who says the ability to break our children free of fixed ideas about their skills and abilities can encourage their lifelong development.
Such openness to growth can also reduce their stress substantially, he notes, according to Angela Duckworth, the author of Grit. Duckworth extends Dweck’s research, noting that individuals’ willingness to overcome obstacles and finish what they start, even in the face of extremely difficult circumstances, is the greatest testament to future success and happiness.
Cultivate a gratitude practice
According to Brené Brown, author of The Gifts of Imperfection, affluent schools are “entitlement incubators,” and entitlement is fatal to both gratitude and joy. As Bachmann observed, Brown’s research shows that consciously promoting joy – honoring small moments of pleasure and thankfulness with daily regularity – takes the “me” out of the equation, diminishing entitlement and increasing joy in students.
Brown says that nurturing groundedness in moments when students have control over their circumstances, and encouraging them to let go when things are beyond their control, is very important to their overall happiness. Such resilience especially comes in handy when the stakes are high, Bachmann says, as with the college application process — a deeply personal process for students and a business decision for colleges.
Encourage play, free time and daydreaming
Bachmann referred to one of the first Speaker Series presenters, Dr. Peter Gray, who encouraged parents to give students much more freedom and independence. Bachmann told the audience of parents to allow children to feel uncomfortable for a little while as they struggle for a solution. He discouraged parents from communicating with students multiple times per day during school hours. And he suggested that students need time to daydream, take a walk or play a game. Most of all, he encouraged parents to limit access to mobile devices when possible.
Follow Bachmann’s lead
Much of Bachmann’s research shows that the brain is plastic and that we can continue to learn and evolve over the course of a lifetime. You can follow his lead by studying on your own.
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