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Helping Students Find Meaning and Vitality in School

Date: Friday - December 11, 2015
Time: 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM
Location: Fieldston Middle School

3901 Fieldston Road, Bronx, NY 10471 Map
Grades 6-12
Speakers: Lauren Porosoff and Jonathan Weinstein

Even in excellent independent schools, students get told to sit down, be quiet, and do what the teacher says. Behavior scientists would call school an “aversive,” and like other aversives, school is something students avoid – even when they’re in the building. Putting heads on desks, looking at the clock, texting, whispering, skipping assignments, skipping class, sighing, groaning, complaining, throwing tantrums, doing the minimum amount of work, staring out the window, doodling…the list of behaviors that students use to avoid school is depressingly long.

Teachers tend to respond to these acts of avoidance in one of two ways. One way is to punish the behaviors (with disappointed expressions, low grades, detentions, mandated counseling, suspensions, and other consequences), which might work in a specific context but also makes school more aversive. The other way teachers respond to avoidance behaviors is to change the learning environment by designing active lessons, playing learning games, giving stretch breaks, creating fun projects, smiling, telling jokes, giving inspirational speeches, and using whatever other tricks they’ve picked up. Teachers have the responsibility to make class engaging but aren’t always empowered or equipped to do so, and even a brilliant teacher in a well-resourced school won’t engage all students at all times.

This workshop offers a different way teachers can respond to the problem of students avoiding school: give some power (and responsibility) back to the students to make school a more welcome and gratifying experience. Even if students have little power to change what school is, they do have the power to change what school means by making it a place where they can pursue their own values.

This idea of changing the meaning of an experience by associating it with values comes from Contextual Behavioral Science (CBS). After exploring a CBS-consistent definition of values, we’ll make origami, sing, play with beans, draw on plates – all so we can experientially learn activities that empower students to contact and commit to their values at school. After each activity, we’ll discuss ideas for how you could follow up, create variations to match your students’ needs and backgrounds, and address challenges that might arise. We’ll end by exploring how teachers can incorporate values work into their curricula.

Agenda:

10:00-10:30

Who are we, and why are we here?

10:30-11:00

What are values, and how are they different from goals?

Values Origami: making fortune-tellers that show how values aren’t things but qualities of action that make life meaningful

11:00-11:30

How can students make their academic experiences serve their values?

Grading Classes: defining what makes school meaningful, grading classes based on these criteria, and writing about how to make school more meaningful

11:30-12:30

Lunch

12:30-1:00

How can students make their social experiences serve their values?

Being in a Group: graphically categorizing behaviors as internal/external and values-consistent/inconsistent

1:00-1:30

How can students stay committed to their values even as people try to influence them to do otherwise?

Hills of Beans: using beans to represent how people think they should allocate their time, and learning to serve their values in the context of these messages

1:45-2:15

How can students develop the willingness to struggle in the service of their values?

Singing Shoulds: relating more flexibly to messages about what we should feel, do, or be

On Your Plate: imagining struggles as foods to be savored, altered, or left uneaten

2:15-3:00

How can I incorporate values work into my curriculum?


Lauren Porosoff, a teacher in independent schools for 15 years, is the author of Curriculum at Your Core: Meaningful Teaching in the Age of Standards and has written for Independent School, AMLE Magazine, Kappan, and Teaching Tolerance about how students and teachers can clarify and commit to their values.


Jonathan Weinstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Lauren and Jonathan have presented at national and regional conferences, and they’re currently writing a book for teachers about how to help students find meaning in school. Prior to working with veterans, he was an early contributor to the Mississippi Center for Contextual Psychology at the University of Mississippi.

Register Here

Early Registration Fees apply until 2 weeks before the event

  • NYSAIS members - $185.00
  • Non-members - $205.00

Regular Registration Fees apply within 2 weeks of the event

  • NYSAIS members - $205.00
  • Non-members - $240.00
* Note: Payment is by credit card only.
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