Education

“Challenging the Stigma of an All-Black School: The Selma High Story” from The Black Scholar

“Students Can Share in MLK-Garvey Legacy” from The Jamaica Gleaner

“Seeking a Bilingual Voice, in Writing and in Life” from The New York Times

Why College Towns Have Such Large Achievement Gaps from The Atlantic

Hip Hop Leads Cuba Anti-Racism Education” from The Atlantic

A Curriculum of Love” from Tikkun

Cuban-U.S. Anti-Racism Pedagogy: A Comparative Vision Queens College, New York

Teaching 100 Hours Still Leaves Children Behind” from Phi Delta Kappan

The challenge of the introverted child

After several days in her assigned work group 6th grader Tania remained noticeably quiet. The teacher observed that during the 15 minute discussion period on the story the class was reading, Tania offered few contributions. And when asked a direct question by other students she responded only briefly. The teacher was concerned by the disparity between Tania’s thoughtful written work on the book and her reticence in both the group and the larger class. Several weeks later the teacher brought up her concern in a conference with Tania’s parents. They agreed Tania would need help with social self-assertion.

But was there really a problem? Did a quiet demeanor signify that Tania was inhibited? Instead, maybe she was just an introvert.

In the bestseller Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, author Susan Cain posits that Western and especially American society reward the extravert and discriminate against the introvert. Extraverts do well with conversation. They often act quickly, thrive in groups and exhibit high energy, all rewarded in the American work world, and to a large extent on that training ground for the work world, the classroom. The introvert is more attuned to the inner world and prefers working alone. The introvert tends to be deliberate and slow-paced and listens more than she talks. Her greatest challenges might be giving a speech or birthday parties. As an adult she is more likely to be a therapist than a sales executive.

Although students often work individually and quietly at desks in the American classroom, most classrooms are social hives where activities are often done in groups, particularly at the elementary and middle school levels. Cain points out that in the last 30 years cooperative learning has been the pedagogical fashion, with students learning as much from each other in small groupings as directly from a teacher. The speed of many classrooms, where a series of activities follows in quick succession, does not coincide with the kind of deliberate reflection and in depth processing characteristic of the introvert, The sheer level of classroom noise can challenge the introvert who works better without high level external stimulation. The introvert pays more attention to stimulation from within. At the high school level, classrooms can be as socially-oriented in their own way as those at lower grade levels. In high schools whole class and small group discussion has partially supplanted the traditional lecture. I work in a number of independent high schools in San Francisco where I see more whole class discussion in English and history classes than any other kind of activity. Often the conversations are like popcorn, jumping rapidly from one voice to another. A cultural comparison with East Asian classrooms is revealing. As an example, a student in a Chinese classroom would never be asked a question in front of a whole class. Public exposure of ones understanding is discouraged. The Asian classroom is often more oriented toward the introverted child.

Introversion does not, however, mean being anti-social. Introverts are as social as extraverts. They just socialize differently. Tania might prefer a deeper level one on one discussion of a topic than a whole group discussion. And introverts can still be highly successful in groups. They can make great leaders, but leaders with a different style than the demonstratively influential approach of the extrovert. Extraverts often want to express their views, convince others and jump into action. Introverts are more considered. They are better at reading a group and guiding it on a path that reflects the collective spirit.

Schools would do well to develop teaching that includes the style of the introvert. These days, educators talk a lot about learning style. Who is a visual, auditory or verbal learner? We should also examine whether a student is an extroverted or an introverted learner and design classroom instruction that accommodates students along every point of the introversion-extroversion spectrum. This is a more equitable approach. The use of a more flexible set of social approaches to teaching will ultimately allow both introverts and extroverts to benefit. It is an approach that honors how children in the deepest way relate to their outer worlds.

Strengthening Executive Functioning

  Executive functions are the mental processes we use to plan, organize and carry out work activities and decisions. A student with executive function difficulties may be extremely intelligent, but face obstacles to channeling and expressing this intelligence into the focused, organized design that the exterior culture requires. The following are common executive functions, obstacles, and possible tools for strengthening these functions.

Function
Problems
Strengthening Strategies
Application Example A Research Project

Initiating

  • Difficulty sensing how to start
  • Impulsive or haphazard starting
  • Do task analysis first
  • List the steps in research process before doing any hands on work
Goal Setting
  • Difficulty conceptualizing outcome
  • Leaps into work without establishing goals
  • Defines goals vaguely
  • Plan “backwards” first by beginning with outcomes, then determining how to get there
  • Ensure goals are concrete and measurable
  • Decide what successful research will show
  • Write down or draw a few examples
Sequencing
  • Goes through steps with inefficient sequence
  • Skips key steps in process
  • Leaps ahead
  • Order steps in task analysis
  • Recognize additional steps may need to be added later
  • Visualize how the steps will follow in order
  • Arrange steps from task analysis accordingly
  • Be open to reordering and adding to the list
Planning
  • Difficulty measuring time needed to complete steps
  • Begins without planning out steps
  • Set a completion goal date/time
  • Assign times to steps in task analysis to design a work plan
  • Evaluate how realistic estimates are and make adjustments
  • Determine which aspects of a research project require more and less time and assign accordingly
Prioritizing
  • Focuses on smaller or less important tasks to the exclusion of larger ones because they appear more accessible or personally preferable
  • Has difficulty letting go of or delaying lower priority tasks
  • Wants to get it all done now
  • Include prioritizing as part of original task analysis
  • Remind self how plan includes a place for each step to be covered
  • Determine which parts of research project are critical to complete first
  • Refer back to plan for grounding when stressed about the size or complexity of the project
Organizing
  • Materials are disorganized
  • Prefers the “free flowing” creative approach that does not involve keeping everything in an assigned place.
  • Assign practical places to keep materials
  • Use a date book/planner
  • Set up a designated work space
  • Use the “free flow” approach during creative portions of the work, but organize materials before next session
  • Discard unneeded material
  • Maintain written plan in a precise, accessible location with other materials for project
  • Set up research folder, binder or note cards
  • Keep all materials for project at a work desk
  • Spread out materials as desired during work times, but clean up afterward, throw out extraneous papers, return everything to designated work space
Focusing
  • Distracted by competing stimulation
  • Follows impulse toward preferred interests outside of work
  • Switches between steps or portions of work
  • Hyperfocuses on particular tasks and without connection to other parts of project
  • Find a work place that minimizes distractions and temptations
  • Determine work habits and rituals that allow efficient and comfortable working
  • Make an agreement with self to pursue personal interests as a future designated time.
  • Take short timed breaks to reward self
  • Consult work plan to remind self what is needed to stay on task
  • Locate a comfortable, private research room in the library
  • Check e-mail, make a phone call or play a computer game after one hour of work
  • Keep work plan visible and consult
Persisting
  • Does not maintain focus on extended task for duration
  • Has difficulty sustaining motivation and concentration when difficulties arise
  • Commit to working for a set period of time longer than usual then take a break to build stamina.
  • Use a brief period of positive self-talk to restore self
  • On an extensive research project, divide the day’s work into separate 45 minute intervals with 10 minute breaks
  • When progress feels limited and desire arises to give up, tell self this is a natural phase of the work. Also name one or two concrete accomplishments to remind self of progress
Pacing
  • Rushes or lags in work pace
  • Does not accurately predict or measure progress over time and make adjustments
  • Loses poise when deadline approaches or stress builds
  • Warm up gradually, but steadily in beginning work
  • Monitor pace from beginning
  • Recall that work plan includes design for how to finish on time
  • Determine work habits and rituals that allow efficient and comfortable working
  • Finish work session gradually instead of working intensively and stopping abruptly
  • Compare how long is needed to research in particular sources with previous estimates and make adjustments accordingly
  • Start with a fun or easier source to get into the work.
  • Finish with an interesting or less demanding source to finish up on a relaxed note
Shifting
  • Gets overinvolved in a task and does not shift to new one
  • Wastes time or becomes stressed in the transition process
  • Build transitions into the work
  • Determine habits or processes that ease shifts between different types of tasks
  • After consulting one source, take a breather or check off the item to get a sense of completion before heading into the next one.

Self-Monitoring

  • Does not evaluate own progress or observe own process.
  • Has difficulty stepping back and monitoring while working
  • Monitors self, but does not make strategic adjustments
  • Recognizes adjustments need to be made, but does not implement
  • List specific work techniques and work session goals to observe and evaluate
  • After a specified period of work note down degree of progress and evaluate which study or work techniques are going well
  • Make adjustments in work plan, use of work techniques, or pacing based on self-evaluation
  • Decide how many notes or sources to be taken in a work session and measure progress after one hour
  • Choose one or two work techniques, such as skimming process or bibliographical organizing system to evaluate while working
Finishing
  • Difficulty deciding what constitutes completion
  • Delays finishing because ending and letting go involve stress
  • Ends before work is completed
  • Define what completed work will be like in task analysis and work plan
  • Recognize that ending can be stressful and include ritual or activity that gives a sense of completion
  • Determine in advance how many notes and sources completed research will have
  • Wrap up note cards with a rubber band or some kind of package and label as complete

Colleges and Universities Socratics Mentoring Students Have Attended

Amherst College
Barnard College
Brown University
Bryn Mawr College
Carnegie Mellon University
Claremont McKenna College
Colby College
Colorado College
Colombia University
Depaul University
Duke University
Harvard University
Haverford College
Kenyon College
Lewis & Clark College
Lehigh University
Mt. Holyoke College
Middlebury College
New York University
Oberlin College
Occidental College
Portland State University
Princeton University
Reed College
San Francisco State University
Skidmore College
Smith College
Stanford University
Syracuse University
Trinity College
Tulane University
Tufts University
United States Naval Academy
University of British Columbia
University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Davis
University of California, Los Angeles
University of California, Riverside
University of California, Santa Barbara
University of California, Santa Cruz
University of Colorado
University of Illinois
University of Michigan
University of North Carolina
University of Puget Sound
University of Southern California
University of Washington
Washington University

A Pedagogy of Mentoring

Abstract
Sizable numbers of secondary school students require sustained one to one guidance to overcome gaps between their level of acquired skills and the academic outcomes they are expected to master. This article articulates a pedagogy of academic mentoring for educators to support underachieving students with one to one intervention. Academic mentors go beyond traditional tutors, using modeling and metacognitive techniques that allow students to consciously manipulate the internal cognitive strategies necessary for mastery, particularly of textual interpretation. The mentor makes the construction of meaning explicit by expressing thinking strategies out loud, thereby making them transmissible. By adopting the role of partner in shared academic exploration, the mentor incubates a student’s underlying potential through the medium of caring relationship.

Graph

Difficulties: Examples:
Core Cognitive Functioning Memorizing a string of words
Complex Skills Visualizing a geometric figure
Organization Planning a schedule for a research project
Attention Maintaining attention on a reading passage
Decision Making Determining readiness to move from outlining to drafting an essay
Executive Functioning Seeing the steps needed to move to completion

Journalism

Social Justice Education and Jamaican Patois” from World Views on NPR affiliate station KGOU

Hip Hop Leads Cuba Anti-Racism Education” from The Atlantic

Trinidad and Tobago Sprints Toward Rio Olympics” from The Washington Post

I Will Not Say the T-Word” from The Huffington Post

Joining This Historic Moment With Cuba” from The San Francisco Chronicle

Hoop Dreams on Pennsylvania Avenue” from The Guardian

Finding Light Inside the Depths” from The San Francisco Chronicle

Invisible Teammate” from The Chicago Tribune

A Jewish Family Journey Through the Letter N” from The Chicago Tribune

The Big Easy’s Post-Katrina Emissaries” from ColorLines

Mending a Wounded Fabric: Torture and Tikkun Olam” from Tikkun

A Meditation on the Idea of Homeland” from Tikkun

The Green Line From Chicago to San Francisco” from The Chicago Tribune