Inspired Learning

In a high school English class the day’s topic was how to use commas, and the teacher was trying his best to hold his students’ attention. One student, Jessie, responded this way: she slipped her hand into her bag and discretely pulled out a catalog for a clothing store. In a sense, it was as though she had left one store in a mall for another. Students these days bring something like a consumer mentality to school; if they don’t find class intriguing or exciting, they tune out.

Today’s students are a tough audience. Increasingly, they seem to require added help getting engaged in learning, in part because they have become constant consumers of entertainment and sensation, always searching for new thrills.»

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The Day Care Debate

When I was a youngster, I was the only kid I knew who had two parents who worked. It was the 50s, when the mode was for dads to work and moms to stay home. These days it’s hard to find families where both parents do not need to hold jobs.

As a result, couples with infants and toddlers face the tough task of finding quality day care. Some studies have shown that two ingredients of better day care are having workers who are well-trained, and a lower ratio of children to workers.

Now Sir Richard Bowlby, the son of the famous British child development theorist John Bowlby, adds a third ingredient: having someone at day care with whom your child can form a nurturing emotional bond.»

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A Safe Haven for Learning

“The most important thing you can learn in this era of heightened global competition,” writes Thomas Friedman, author of the The World is Flat and an expert on globalization, “is how to learn.”

Being good at learning, Bill Brody, president of Johns Hopkins University tells me, is sure to be an enormous asset in this age of incessant change and innovation, and an era when jobs will become outmoded and new jobs invented more quickly than ever.

But how do you learn to learn? Friedman remembers his own favorite teachers. No matter the subject, they excited him about learning itself. In fact, he has long forgotten exactly what they taught him – but he remembers being excited about learning whatever it was.»

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The Circle of Security

Half a dozen mothers are watching videos of themselves caring for their toddlers, taped in their homes a week or two before. The videos present a montage of each of the mothers with their toddlers in warm moments. The soundtrack: the song “You Are so Beautiful.”

“That is the song,” the group leader tells them, “your children are singing to you.”

The point of the meetings is for each mother to become more aware of her strengths at mothering, and to try to get better at habits that need improvement. So over the ensuing weeks, they will see other videos that show their struggles at caregiving – being too intrusive, or tuned-out, or simply missing cues from their toddler about what’s needed.»

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Kids and Lead: A Puzzle Solved

“What do you believe that you cannot prove?” was the question posed to me and maybe a hundred others by The Edge, a website devoted to cutting edge thinking.

In my answer, I proposed that children we unintended victims of larger technological and economic forces that inadvertently were hampering the development of emotional and social intelligence. I wrote: “The most compelling data come from a random nationwide sample, conducted by Thomas Achenbach at the University of Vermont, of more than 3,000 representative American schoolchildren aged seven to sixteen, whose behavior was rated by their parents and teachers—adults who knew them well.»

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