Teaching students not to fear

Excellent read:

It may be that some people inside higher education think students aren’t ready for college because they don’t know what they should know. Or students don’t come with the abilities we think they should already have. Or they don’t know how to learn. Or they can’t think critically. Or they don’t know correct grammar. Or they don’t know how to manage their time. All that may be true, but I believe none of it is going to be repaired if we don’t help them learn how to stop fearing questions, themselves and others.

None of our concerns about student readiness for college are ever going to be resolved if we don’t help students learn how to stop fearing questions, themselves and others, writes Laurence Musgrove.

Source: The importance of teaching students not to fear (essay)

The most helpful concept I’ve discovered in her teachings is “bodhichitta,” the ongoing consciousness of those who have developed the fearlessness necessary to extend compassion to one’s self so that it might be extended to others.

Chodron defines bodhichitta as the ready mind and compassionate heart capable of overcoming the fears we feel toward ourselves and others that often result in aggression, prejudice, despair and even indifference. According to her, those who dedicate themselves to training in bodhichitta are called “bodhisattvas or warriors — not warriors who kill and harm but warriors of nonaggression who hear the cries of the world. These are men and women who are willing to train in the middle of the fire. Training in the middle of the fire can mean that warrior-bodhisattvas enter challenging situations in order to alleviate suffering. It also refers to their willingness to cut through personal reactivity and self-deception, to their dedication to uncovering the basic energy of bodhichitta.”

(emphasis mine)

Why Are IEPs So Expensive and Frustrating for Schools and Special Education Students and Their Parents? – The Atlantic

I think she’s diagnosing the wrong cause for this problem, but the description of the mess is definitely worth reading.

It feels like all of the rules set up to educate exceptional students (who are not severely restricted from a “typical” learning environment) are an attempt to solve problem by throwing rules at it. In my experience, what works in the classroom is the caring relationship of a teacher to the student in his/her care and the family of that student. To do that relationship well, teachers must be trained and they must have a small enough class size to invest the time necessary. And schools need to give those teaching professionals the latitude to structure their classrooms and lessons in the way that best fits the particular students in their care.


Individualized Education Programs, or IEPs, are one of the greatest pitfalls of the country’s school system.

Source: Why Are IEPs So Expensive and Frustrating for Schools and Special Education Students and Their Parents? – The Atlantic

Today’s Fail-Safe Students – Students – The Chronicle of Higher Education

An excellent read about the question of how failure can motivate a student – or derail her. It’s easy to blame helicopter parenting for today’s risk-adverse, success-obsessed students. But the story is more complex that that…
Today’s Fail-Safe Students – Students – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

“These students are going to live through the second digital revolution, and they are not ready for it,” says Mr. Levine. “This is a high-risk world. The notion of building in opportunities for failure is really important.” If young people don’t experience meaningful failure in school or college, they’re bound to face it in adulthood, where it could paralyze or derail them.

Nancy Atwell in today’s teaching environment

Education Week.

Teaching in America has been systematically de-professionalized. It’s no longer a job where experience, mentorship and creativity are valued. The evidence around that–beginning with test score-based teacher evaluation, and ending with federal funding for Teach for America– is incontrovertible.

via Education Week.


The Realities of Being a Public Educator | molehills out of mountains

Good read with links to very good articles about public education.

On the surface, it sounds good to say that states should reduce administrative costs, and push more money into classrooms (as proposed by the Governor of Arizona), but it is important to understand that “administrative costs” include librarians, counselors, food services, specialists who provide math and reading intervention, transportation, and even school safety measures — many of the people, and programs, tasked with meeting the basic needs of students in order to allow them to focus on learning.

Like it or not, what schools are required to do in order to ensure that student learning happens has changed dramatically. The chaos, dysfunction, poverty, and hunger that impacts students outside of school has a direct and significant impact on student learning. For anyone to deny that would be absurd, and for schools to ignore it would be malpractice.

via The Realities of Being a Public Educator | molehills out of mountains.

via The Realities of Being a Public Educator | molehills out of mountains.

MLK on Education

“As I engage in the so-called “bull sessions” around and about the school, I too often find that most college men have a misconception of the purpose of education. Most of the “brethren” think that education should equip them with the proper instruments of exploitation so that they can forever trample over the masses. Still others think that education should furnish them with noble ends rather than means to an end.

It seems to me that education has a two-fold function to perform in the life of man and in society: the one is utility and the other is culture. Education must enable a man to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility the legitimate goals of his life.

Education must also train one for quick, resolute and effective thinking. To think incisively and to think for one’s self is very difficult. We are prone to let our mental life become invaded by legions of half truths, prejudices, and propaganda. At this point, I often wonder whether or not education is fulfilling its purpose. A great majority of the so-called educated people do not think logically and scientifically. Even the press, the classroom, the platform, and the pulpit in many instances do not give us objective and unbiased truths. To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.

The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals…

We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education…”

~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
‘The Purpose Of Education’