Conversations in Education
From teacher book groups to conversations in the faculty lounge, Prep faculty and administrators think a lot about how we support students. Each month in 2017-18, we are featuring a piece by a Prep faculty member or administrator that gives a slice of life at Prep. If you would like to share your ideas, feel free to comment on an individual post or contact Dean of Studies Sarah Cooper.
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.
An Interview with Enrico Gnaulati, PhD
In this edition of Prep’s parent newsletter, we hear from Enrico Gnaulati, psychotherapist and author of Back to Normal: Why Ordinary Childhood Behavior Is Mistaken for ADHD, Bipolar Disorder, and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Dr. Gnaulati will be the featured speaker at the Prep Community Speakers Series in April.
What: "Success at Life Is Not Just Success at School: Building Independence in Teens."
When: April 12, 2016 at 6:30 pm
Where: La Cañada Presbyterian Church, 626 Foothill Boulevard, La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011
Prep: How do you suggest parents help adolescents learn to self-regulate their devices and their relationship with technology?
Dr. Gnaulati: This is a high-priority issue in the parent-teen relationship. A rule of thumb for parents should be that these devices are privileges, not entitlements.
If your teen defaults to accessing screens when restless or bored, don’t be shy about pulling the plug on all screens for a designated period of time. Help your teen generate a list of non-screen hobbies and activities that he or she can alternately pursue. Agree to restore screen time only when your teen has put time and effort into pursuing these hobbies and activities.
Teens need to realize that their smart-phones and laptops and social media are not diaries, in which they can write things or self-showcase in ways they think should be private. They should know that the world is looking on at the electronic content they post.
How important do you think getting enough sleep is in helping teens manage their lives? Do you have suggestions for ways that busy teens can try to get more sleep?
Poor sleep is probably one of the most underrated causes of moodiness and faltering attention/concentration in teens. Research shows that only about 20 percent of teens get the recommended nine hours of sleep nightly. The first thing teens can do to maximize their chances of getting a good night’s sleep is monitor their caffeine intake. Caffeine has an eight-hour half-life, meaning half the caffeine in a drink is active in a teen’s body eight hours after consumption. Forbidding screen time for at least an hour before bedtime is another important step.
Teens can replicate the ideal conditions for all humans to sleep well: keep the bedroom dark, cool (below 75 degrees) and quiet. Consider the use of earplugs and monitor the length of afternoon naps. More than 20 to 25 minutes can put teens at risk of falling into deeper sleep states and interfere with nighttime sleep patterns.
Do you think major differences exist between male and female learners? If so, which differences between boys and girls do you think middle and high schools should be particularly aware of?
This is a question dear to my heart, which I have written a fair amount about. Research has shown that girls, on average, achieve better grades than boys, across all grade levels. The arguments that are being made are that girls have a self-discipline edge over boys. They are more mastery oriented than boys in their schoolwork habits. They thrive in educational systems that emphasize keeping up with and producing quality homework, good citizenship, collaborative learning and organizational skills. Insofar as schools weigh grades more heavily along these lines, girls tend to have a competitive edge.
Boys, on the other hand, on average, tend to be more performance oriented. They are more likely to test better. They tend to be more intrinsically satisfied cramming for a test and performing well on it. Planning ahead, anticipating deadlines, keeping a tidy backpack, setting and meeting homework goals are tasks that are more challenging for boys in the current educational landscape.
Boys may need flexibility and targeted help when it comes to staying organized, paying attention to details, meeting deadlines and the like, while girls may need flexibility and targeted help with anxiety in performance-based test-taking situations.
Remember, this is on average and is not true of all boys and girls.
How can parents know if a teen's behavior is normal?
We should always step back and examine if a teen’s behavior is best explained by perfect storms of developmental and circumstantial events in his or her life before assuming that any abnormal behavior applies. Moodiness, black-and-white thinking, grandiosity and egocentrism, for instance, are all normal adolescent tendencies. These can be aggravated by misfits between a teen’s learning style and his or her academic setting, family lifestyle changes, sleep irregularities, the degree of emotional reactivity in the parent-child relationship, sibling bullying or any number of seemingly ordinary human occurrences in a teen’s life.
What would be three qualities or elements of your ideal middle or high school?
Actually, I think Prep embodies the three I would rank highly! It is relatively small, such that a student can meaningfully feel like part of a learning community. Prep’s teachers make themselves available for mentoring, which I see as a crucial element of intellectual identity development. And Prep allows for students of varying talent levels to participate in high school athletics, which I think is invaluable for building social versatility, self-discipline and many healthy lifestyle habits.
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