Friday, November 29, 2013

The Price of Privelege - a must read for all parents in international schools.

The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids

I have just spent a few days obsessed by reading a book that brings together so many of the issues that I have noticed developing in international students over the 30 years I have been abroad.  This book is a MUST read for all parents attending international schools, as its contents apply as much if not more to them than to the target audience in the USA. To do the book justice I would suggest that families buy two copies, one for mum and one for dad, read a chapter, reflect and discuss its contents. I think it is that important.

Without wishing to spoil its content here is an extract from a blog post that highlighted some of its findings.
10 Strategies for Raising Healthy Kids that Most Parents Ignore
  1. Prioritize family responsibilities over extracurricular activities. ”While demands for outstanding academic or extracurricular performance are very high, expectations about family responsibilities are amazingly low. This kind of imbalance in expectations results in kids who regularly expect others to ‘take up the slack,’ rather than learning themselves how to prioritize tasks or how to manage time.”
  2. Eat together as a family. “Families who eat together five or more times a week have kids who are significantly less likely to use tobacco, alcohol, or marijuana, have higher grade-point averages, less depressive symptoms, and fewer suicide attempts than families who eat together two or fewer times a week.”
  3. Let kids begin to solve their own problems. “Certainly there are times when children, particularly young children, need parental intervention. But these times are fewer than we think, and the goal should always be to help the child learn about how to act on his own behalf.”
  4. Let kids fail when the consequences are small. “By allowing them to get occasionally bruised in childhood we are helping to make certain that they don’t get broken in adolescence. And by allowing them their failures in adolescence, we are helping to lay the groundwork for success in adulthood.”
  5. Don’t reward kids for their performance. “Never bribe children to learn; it sets the stage for them to depend on rewards of one kind or another to learn. This sets them up to be good performers and poor learners.”
  6. Allow kids to experience consequences to their actions. “When we mitigate natural consequences for our kids we deprive them of one of life’s most important lessons: that we are held accountable for our actions.”
  7. Don’t become a kid-centric family. “Mothers and fathers spend whole weekends for months on end shuttling their children to athletic events, ignoring the fact that friendships and marriage suffer under the barrage of child-centered activities.”
  8. Set boundaries and use appropriate discipline. “Various studies have found that firm parental control is associated with children who can take care of themselves, who are academically successful, who are emotionally well developed, and who are happier.”
  9. Be real and be vulnerable. “One of the reasons that life in an affluent community can feel so lonely is because affluent people have the resources to buy their way out of many types of trouble and are reluctant to turn to neighbors for fear of being rejected or humiliated.”
  10. Make healthy marriage a priority. “The best gift you can give your children is a good marriage.”

Does Social Networking give us friends or increase our loneliness?

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 "Social media can nurture cowardice. It fuels a sense of bravado and gives us false courage to say things online we would never have the guts to say in person. It also provides an all-too-convenient means of hiding behind playing "pretend" and avoiding harsh realities in our lives. During times we most need to be courageous, social media makes it so easy to be a coward. In fact, as you read this now, millions of people are "connecting" and socializing with people they may never meet in person, all while they fail to make eye contact, much less engage in conversation, with people only a few steps away, or sitting right beside them. The former are "safe" and enable us to show only as much as we want. On the other hand, those right around us make us feel vulnerable, leaving us nowhere to hide -- without any means to "auto-enhance" the image we want them to see.
As technology infiltrates our lives we must be more and more deliberate about not losing touch with the people right around us. We must be intentional about turning off our machines and making ourselves available for those people immediately around us -- bravely embracing the awkwardness and imperfection of genuine relationships with real people. Truly meaningful connection demands a degree of vulnerability -- laying down the digital designer masks we can too easily hide behind and revealing who we really are and what is really going on in our less-than-perfect, and sometimes outright messy, lives."

Here is a short 4 minute video that is connected to the same theme as the article above and is certainly worth watching.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How Do We Prepare Our Children for What’s Next?

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"When most of us were deciding what to major in at college, the word Google was not a verb. It wasn’t anywhere close to being conceived at all. Neither was Wikipedia or the iPhone or YouTube. We made decisions about our future employment based on what we knew existed at the time. We would become educators, journalists, lawyers, marketing reps, engineers.
Fast forward a couple of decades (or more) and we see that the career landscape has changed so drastically that jobs need new definitions. Social media strategist, app developer, mobile web engineer?
Some of us could ask ourselves if we would have embarked upon our current careers had we predicted how the Internet would revolutionize every part of our lives? It’s hard to say, but when it comes to preparing our kids for what’s ahead, Cathy Davidson has a few ideas. The author of Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn (Viking), who’s also a professor at Duke University, believes that, in light of the fact that “65 percent of today’s grade-school kids may end up doing work that hasn’t been invented yet,” we should cast aside our fear of technology, and prepare our school-aged kids with important skills, both in technical ways and other less tangible ways."

Why kids today need the experience of open-ended exploration and experimentation—otherwise known as tinkering.

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"The people who run Eli Whitney call these hands-on projects "experiments." As they put it: "Experiments are a way of learning things. They require self-guided trial and error, active exploration, and testing by all the senses. Experiments begin with important questions, questions that make you think or that inspire you to create." This process of exploring, testing and finding out is vital to children's intellectual and psychological development—but opportunities to engage in it are fewer than they once were. “My friends and I grew up playing around in the garage, fixing our cars,” says Frank Keil, a Yale University psychologist who is in his early 60's. “Today kids are sealed in a silicon bubble. They don’t know how anything works.”

Many others have noticed this phenomenon. Engineering professors report that students now enter college without the kind of hands-on expertise they once unfailingly possessed. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “we scour the country looking for young builders and inventors,” says Kim Vandiver, dean for undergraduate research. “They’re getting harder and harder to find.” MIT now offers classes and extracurricular activities devoted to taking things apart and putting them together, an effort to teach students the skills their fathers and grandfathers learned curbside on weekend afternoons."

Friday, November 15, 2013

Will the New SAT Be a Better Barometer for College Readiness?

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"For the fifth year in a row, less than 50 percent of high schoolers reached the “college and career ready” SAT Benchmark score of 1550, according to the 2013 SAT Report on College and Career Readiness provided by the College Board. While underrepresented minorities’ scores made small gains, and minority test-takers were at an all-time high, the Board agreed that an overall cause for concern was warranted. “This number has remained virtually unchanged for the past five years,” the report stated, “underscoring a need to dramatically increase the number of K-12 students who acquire the skills and knowledge that research demonstrates are critical to college readiness.”
The report shows a direct link between meeting the Benchmark of 1550 and college completion, showing that 54 percent of students scoring 1550 or above completed college in four years, and 77 percent within six. Conversely, only 24 percent of those scoring below 1550 completed college in four years.
At the same time, newly appointed College Board President (and Common Core designer) David Coleman has promised to re-make the SAT. A recent New York Times article reported him saying that the test should focus on “things that matter more so that the endless hours students put into practicing for the SAT will be work that’s worth doing,” and says “the heart” of the new SAT will be analyzing evidence in a range of subjects, from math to literacy to history."

Academic Teaching Doesn’t Prepare Students for Life

"Three questions to guide student-driven learning
As I’ve worked with my students, we’ve come to realize they need to be able to answer three questions, regardless of what we’re researching:
• What are you going to learn?
• How are you going to learn it?
• How are you going to show me you’re learning?
How they get to this last question is often their decision. And what they come up with never fails to surprise me.
My classroom hasn’t always looked like this. But over the past three years we’ve shifted to a constructivist pedagogy that has transformed not only my thinking, but my students as well. Now we learn in an inquiry, PBL, tech-embedded classroom.
The journey at times has been painful and messy, but well worth the work. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that my students will often exceed my expectations, if only they’re given the chance."

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Raising Kids In a Digital Age

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If you follow the link at the foot of this post you will be taken to a very interesting 23 minute radio chat about issues related to raising children today.

"Last week, the NPR tech team reported a series on kids and digital media, including school-issued iPads, stories about babies and screen time, teens and social media, the science behind video games and more. Bay Area correspondents Steve Henn, Laura Sydell and Eric Westervelt will take you through the week of stories in this 23-minute recording."

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Key to Understanding Mathematics

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“Mathematics is a way to read the world of nature and technology around us. If a teacher can convey this, the entire world becomes an exciting textbook.”


Lesson for Life

"When you grow up you, tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world, try not to bash into the walls too much, try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader, once you discover one simple fact, and that is that everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.

The minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mold it. That’s maybe the most important thing. It’s to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it.
I think that’s very important and however you learn that, once you learn it, you’ll want to change life and make it better, cause it’s kind of messed up, in a lot of ways. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”

Most people never pick up the phone, most people never ask. And that’s what separates, sometimes, the people that do things from the people that just dream about them. You gotta act. And you gotta be willing to fail… if you’re afraid of failing, you won’t get very far.”

Steve Jobs.