How Harnessing the Positive Side of Stress Can Change Student Mindsets

flickr photo by racka_abe shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

This new MindShift piece by Katrina Schwartz outlines the advantages of talking about the positive aspects stress with students.

“Carol Dweck’s work on growth mindset and its power to help people view challenges as opportunities to improve has helped many students understand their beliefs about themselves. When empowered with the understanding that intelligence is malleable, students can develop how they approach school and life. But the revelations around mindsets don’t end there — they apply to other areas of education, including how students view and react to stress.

There is a lot of research about how stress negatively impacts health, cognitive functioning and self-control, but less often discussed are how those findings change when people see their stress as a positive motivator. “In a number of situations, accepting and embracing the stress instead of trying to calm down helped students to do better,” said Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University at a Learning and the Brain conference on mindsets.”  Read the rest of the post here.


Do You Connect to All Students?

flickr photo by Jason L. Parks shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

flickr photo by Jason L. Parks shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

In this Edutopia piece, writer and coach Elena Aguilar shares a personal experience about watching her younger brother struggle and asks “Who will you get to know this year?”

His nickname was “seizure boy” — not a nickname he welcomed or ever wanted. Once, while waiting for the school bus, he collapsed in a seizure and while on the ground, in the dust, the bullies kicked him until a younger neighbor intervened. His teachers weren’t much better. Most of them were intolerant, indifferent, or uninterested. He dropped out of high school in the first week of his senior year.

This was my little brother who had epilepsy from the age of four until he was twelve years old. During his school years, he was frequently absent, got in trouble, and was set to the principal’s office regularly. He was incessantly bullied, and, as you might imagine, developed a strong dislike for school. When he was 12, a brain surgery stopped the seizures. However, it took many years for him to catch up socially, emotionally, and academically.

In the last few years I’ve become aware of the impact that my brother’s schooling had on me as an educator. I understand why my heart races and my palms perspire and my throat constricts when I see children — particularly boys — who are excluded and misunderstood. When I was a kid, there wasn’t much I could do to protect my little brother from the cruelty of others. I’ve been working in schools for two decades, and when I reflect on these years, I see the connection between my brother’s experience and my mission to create classrooms and schools where all children feel safe, valued, and understood.” Read the entire piece here.

Great New Posts from Edutopia


Edutopia is one of the best sites out there for teachers who are seeking new ideas and wanting to grow as educators.

Several new posts are perfect for the start of the school year.

13 Common Sayings to Avoid

“When I was a new teacher in middle school several centuries ago, I occasionally said things to students that I later regretted. In the last few years, I have witnessed or heard teachers say additional regretful things to students. Recently I asked students in my graduate courses (all practicing teachers) if they ever told their students anything they regret. After hearing these regrets and talking with children about what teachers said that bothered them, I compiled a list of things that never should be said.

I’ve narrowed my list to 13 representative items. Some of these are related to control issues, others to motivation, and still more to management. All reflect frustration and/or anger. Let’s start the upcoming school year by wiping these sayings out of our vernacular.

“You have potential but don’t use it.”

Students feel insulted when they hear this, and while some accept it as a challenge to do better, more lose their motivation to care. Instead, say in a caring way, “How can I help you reach your full potential?” Read the rest of the list here.

The Key to Effective Teams in Schools: Emotional Intelligence

“You’ve probably heard about emotional intelligence (EI) — the ability to recognize when you’re experiencing emotions, to have strategies for managing them, and to recognize other people’s emotions and respond appropriately to them. A team leader’s EI is extremely important, but there’s also such thing as a group’s collective emotional intelligence. And this, say the researchers, is what sets high-functioning teams apart from average ones.

Why Group Emotional Intelligence Matters

A team’s emotional intelligence might be the most important predictor of what it will do together, what conversations will sound like, and how members will feel about going to meetings — and just because a team is comprised of individuals with strong emotional intelligence doesn’t mean that the team itself will have high EI. Groups take on their own character.” Read more here.

Inquiry-Based Learning: The Power of Asking the Right Questions

“As a fourth-grade teacher at an inquiry-based learning school, I’ve come to understand the importance of planning. Planning is critical and also best practice. I still plan at the beginning of each week and each day. A teacher without a plan has no purpose or learning objectives for her students.

With student-directed learning, there’s a major difference between planning and flexibility. I plan according to what my students need and how I’m going to assess their skills or knowledge, just like every other teacher. The difference lies in the delivery of instruction. A teacher must always be flexible and adaptable.

The Power of the Right Questions

You might wonder how lesson planning works if you’re always reconstructing on the fly. I’ve found that if the students take the lesson in a different direction than what I’ve planned for, it’s my job to light their way to where my intention and their intention meet. Most often, if their curiosity takes us in a completely different direction, I let them run with it. However, I also let them find the connection between what I need them to learn and what they want to learn.” Read the rest of the piece here.

Free Online Courses for Young Adults

flickr photo by dewfall shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Exciting news from FutureLearn:

FutureLearn recently teamed up with 11 of their partner universities to offer a range of free online courses for young adults, called FutureLearn Choices, starting June 2015.

The courses offer 16 to 19 year olds the chance to:

  • try out new subjects: such as coding, robotics or forensic science, to get a taste of a degree or career in the field

  • make a great university application: with advice on writing personal statements and preparing for interviews

  • get ready for university: by gaining skills such as critical thinking or the advanced maths that’s required for degree-level study.

You can find out more and join any of the courses at:

Eliminate Fear from the Classroom

creative commons licensed (BY-NC) flickr photo by Dystopos:

Plenty of studies have demonstrated that when humans are stressed or afraid, they cannot learn. This ASCD chapter by Bob Sullo outlines how and why to eliminate the use of fear as a behavior management strategy for students and classrooms.

“Despite compelling evidence to the contrary, many teachers still believe that fear—fear of failure, fear of an unwanted call home, fear of the teacher, fear of ridicule, or fear of an unpleasant consequence—is a prime motivator for students to do high-quality work. The intentional creation of fear in the classroom remains one of the most widely used strategies for managing student behavior and encouraging academic achievement.

But fear compromises our ability to learn. In this chapter, you will meet a well-intentioned teacher who undermines his capacity to inspire high achievement by creating a classroom environment infused with fear.”   Read the entire chapter here.

10 Things Your Students Need From You


One of Teachthought’s latest post serves as a good reminder of student perspective on their needs for success.

“As educators, we have a huge responsibility towards each child entrusted to us.

It is our duty to try our best to meet the needs of the students in our classroom and to help them become productive members of our communities. Sometimes we need to step out of our ‘teacher shoes’ and step into the shoes of a student to help us better understand them, since they are not always very adept at verbalizing their thoughts. Here are ten things you would learn from their point of view.”  Read more here.