How do Children Succeed?

Written by Seth Pozzi, Asst. Head of School on .

Academic learning is important, but it is only part of what students need to succeed in life. A critical part of our character strengths education program involves our students learning how to respond to challenges. At WHPS, our students have frequent opportunities to reflect on aspects of a project, plan, or assignment that did not go so well. In school, we want every child to find success, and an important part is knowing how to respond to failure. People who have not learned to respond well to frustration and failure are likely to choose paths without much risk or challenge and thus, destine themselves to a life of predictability, safety, and mediocrity.

In his seminal book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character, author Paul Tough presents evidence why character strengths—or non-cognitive skills—are vital to success. Tough explains that these skills are highly malleable and can be grown and developed throughout life. They include:
 Respect
 Caring
 Honesty
 Responsibility
 Fairness
 Perseverance

Tough outlines surprising ways in which adults often do—and do not—help children develop these skills. Woven into the story of How Children Succeed is the research of Dr. Angela Duckworth at the University of Pennsylvania—one of the preeminent researchers into the neuro-psychological development of children. Among her distinguished accomplishments, Duckworth designed a test that was more predictive of the success rate for incoming recruits at West Point Academy than the military's own assessment. What she terms "grit" entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years, despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress.

I like to think of our program as inspired by Paul Tough and Dr. Duckworth. Our teachers think very carefully about how and where we challenge students. They provide scaffolding and encouragement for students to work at skills that may be unfamiliar or feel less comfortable. And, perhaps most importantly, they provide a safe, loving place for children to make mistakes and learn to fall and get back up, developing coping and resiliency skills. While Paul Tough states that many schools are not set-up to teach and foster the non-cognitive skills of respect, caring, honesty, responsibility, fairness, and perseverance, you will see children in our school receiving regular feedback and reinforcement with these skills. I believe Dr. Duckworth and Mr. Tough would be impressed with the level of “grit” our children are developing.

Positive "Teacher" Language

Written by Seth Pozzi, Head of School on .

At WHPS, we believe that the way our teachers talk to children is a key ingredient in creating our warm, inclusive community. We know that our language can empower children, and it can be a powerful tool to encourage and support learning. Positive Teacher Language is inextricably tied to our character strengths education program. As we continue to model, practice, and reinforce respect, caring, honesty, perseverance, responsibility, and fairness in school, children need to know what is expected of them and need to feel safe making mistakes. Positive Teacher Language helps us create an environment in which these character strengths and other positive behaviors can be fostered.

Positive Teacher Language can be just as helpful for parents who want to promote positive behaviors and avoid power struggles at home. Here are some basic guidelines for the three types of Positive Teacher Language: Reinforcing, Reminding and Redirecting. Listen for them at school, and feel free to try them at home. Choose an R and begin practicing.

Reinforcing Language is designed to help children build on their strengths instead of focusing on their weaknesses. Observe and name what children are doing well and point it out to them. This promotes growth and positive behavior. Avoid making blanket statements like “That’s great” or “Good job.” Instead, provide specific feedback like, “You remembered a capital letter at the beginning of the sentence” or “You held the
door for that man.”

Reminding Language provides a reminder to help children stay on track. In school this might sound like, “It’s time for Writing Workshop. What do you need to do to get ready?” At home, you can try, “We are leaving for school in a moment. What do you need to have in your backpack?” Or, “How can you say that in a friendly way to your brother?”

If a child is doing something unsafe or is experiencing strong emotions and is unable to focus on what they're supposed to be doing, redirect with a statement, not a question. This is done with a neutral tone and clear, precise words. Name the desired behavior, not the undesired one. Instead of, “Stop running,” try saying, “Walk.” Instead of, “You shouldn’t be talking right now,” try, ”It’s time to listen.” The fewer words you use and the more you focus on the desired behavior, the better. 

These principles are simple but help set clear, positive expectations that help children succeed. Join us this year in giving special attention to the nuances of our language with children. If you are interested in learning more, you can read more about Positive Teacher Language from Responsive Classroom

WHPS Goes Beyond Common Core

Written by Seth Pozzi, Asst. Head of School on .

There is so much hype about Common Core these days. We often get asked on tours of our elementary school, “Do you guys do this Common Core stuff?” I love the question because it provides the perfect opportunity to explain how far we surpass what Common Core aspires to accomplish.
Common Core was developed in 2009 in response to a critical call to action for schools. According to the US Labor Department, 65% of today’s schoolchildren will end up being employed in jobs that have NOT YET BEEN CREATED. This leaves us with a very tall order: Teach students skills to solve problems we’ve never seen before and won’t encounter for years! While we at WHPS do not possess a crystal ball that can predict the next Facebook or what organs doctors will 3D print next, we can develop our students into well-rounded thinkers who can apply their diverse skills to meaningful situations. We can achieve this by continuing to innovate and evolve with new and emerging technologies, using proven educational techniques, and trying out new ideas, such as our 3D Design & Printing program.

Common Core focuses on students’ understanding and ability to engage with and manipulate language, media, and math. While public schools are just beginning to try to incorporate Common Core and its standards, our program at WHPS has long been built around the spirt of the Common Core, teaching children deeper, big-picture understanding. This philosophy encompasses the buzzwords you keep hearing: STEAM, STEM, and Project-Based Learning (PBL), with a desire for children to become strong critical thinkers.

You can see the spirit of Common Core throughout our program. One example I love comes from 4th and 5th grade. Students have been learning about alternative energy (such as wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, and biofuel). After experimenting with and learning about electrical energy, they will be designing and 3D printing their own wind turbines, which they will test in a class competition. This science unit exceeds what Common Core sets out to do: it combines scientific learning and experimentation with engineering, building and testing prototypes, math, technology, and writing (defending a proposal through scientific argumentation). Stay tuned on Facebook for photos and videos of our upcoming engineering competition.

In Writer’s Workshop, students learn to experiment with story leads. They are learning to think critically about their writing and select the lead that best conveys their intended tone. In our Word Study program, students have opportunities to experiment with sorting words in creative ways. Similarly, our math program emphasizes critical thinking and problem solving. Parents sometimes inquire about why the curriculum seems to slow down and focus on small, easy-to-manipulate numbers in 1st and 2nd grade. This is because the focus is on teaching children how to think critically, read carefully, and solve complex, multi-step problems. Smaller numbers allow children to exercise critical thinking while not getting bogged down in calculations.

While this is just a peek into what is going on in the elementary school, we like to provide you these snippets to explain our curriculum, projects, and programs, which are hand-selected based on what is truly best for students, just as your family hand-selected Woodland Hills Private School.

Teaching Children to Care

Written by Seth Pozzi, Asst. Head of School on .

Image result for responsive classroom

You may have heard about our new Responsive Classroom program. Our teachers and administration are excited to show you all the nuts and bolts of Responsive Classroom this year. I think you may find the origin of the program just as interesting as how it works. 

In 1981, a group of six passionate veteran teachers started their own lab school. They sought to establish the ideal learning environment that would be intellectually-focused while also fostering the development of social competence. Based on extensive research, they constructed a program that gave unprecedented attention to building a positive school community and fostering self-efficacy, resiliency, and interpersonal skills in children. 

Over subsequent decades, the team and their lab school continued to evolve into what is now known as The Center for Responsive Schools. Their research has led to major breakthroughs in the field of education, and they have published several seminal books that have transformed methods of academic and social-emotional teaching and learning. The list of titles and the vast number of studies that have been done is mind boggling! As a result, some of the most elite teacher and school administration preparation programs are turning to their work as a model for how the ideal school should function. 

Perhaps more important than their contributions to the educational canon is the training program they developed. The Center for Responsive Schools now provides intensive training seminars for educators. I have attended their institutes each summer, and the program has left an indelible mark on the way I work with and talk to children. Select WHPS elementary teachers spent time this summer at the Responsive Classroom Institute, and you will see the program rolling out in our elementary classrooms throughout this school year.

As WHPS teachers adopt Responsive Classroom, you will see:

  • Teaching of 21st century skills such as critical thinking problem-solving, communication, collaboration, creativity, and innovation
  • Lessons that involve active and social learning
  • Students making meaningful choices about their own learning
  • Clearly established routines that promote autonomy and independence
  • Students feeling a sense of community and shared purpose
  • Use of specialized teacher language to promote academic and social growth
  • Classrooms starting each day with Morning Meeting as a way to set a positive tone for learning

In the weeks and months ahead, we will continue to focus on the various components of Responsive Classroom. Our teachers will continue to participate in ongoing intensive learning opportunities together, and we will continue to provide learning opportunities for our families. It is a true honor to be able to further the work of the founders of The Center for Responsive Schools by bringing this program to WHPS. I think it is an outstanding way for us to continue to make our school stand out as a model for excellence in education.

Fostering Self-Reliance During the First Weeks of School

Written by Seth Pozzi, Head of School on .

Wendy Mogel is one of my favorite authors, and I have had the great privilege of seeing her speak several times. She has worked with children and families all over Los Angeles, and she really "gets" modern parenting. She is the author of: The Blessing of a Skinned Knee and  The Blessing of a B Minus, both great books for any parent, grandparent or teacher!

It’s probably safe to assume you want your child to be self-reliant, resilient, and accountable and to have a spirit of adventure. In the first few weeks of school, our children have been setting goals and thinking about their hopes and dreams for the year. How can you, as a parent, support your child in building independence and self-efficacy?


 A 26-step program for good parents gone bad

I’ve written these steps to provide encouragement to well-intentioned, devoted, loving, intelligent parents who feel powerless to stop themselves from overindulging, overprotecting, and overscheduling their children. Parents who get jittery if their offspring aren’t performing at a high level in every area. And parents who have unwittingly allowed traits like self-reliance, resilience, accountability and a spirit of adventure to slip to the bottom of their parenting priority list.

1. Don’t confuse a snapshot taken today with the epic movie of your child’s life. Kids go through phases. Glorious ones and alarming ones. 

2. Don’t fret over or try to fix what’s not broken. Accept your child’s nature even if he’s shy, stubborn, moody, or not great at math.

3. Look at anything up close and you’ll see the flaws. Consider it perfectly normal if you like your child’s friends better than you like your child.

4. Work up the courage to say a simple “no.” Don’t try to reach consensus every time.

5.Encourage your child to play or spend time outside using all five senses in the three-dimensional world. How come only troubled rich kids get to go to the wilderness these days? Send your kids to camp for the longest stretch of time you can afford.  Enjoy nature together as a family.

6. Don’t mistake children’s wants with their needs. Don’t fall for a smooth talker’s line about the urgent need for a cell phone “in case of an emergency, Mom!” or a new car “because it’s so much safer than your old van.”  Privileges are not entitlements.

7. Remember that kids are hardy perennials, not hothouse flowers. Let them be cold, wet, or hungry for more than a second and they’ll appreciate the chance to be warm, dry, and fed.

8. Abstain from taking the role of Sherpa, butler, crabby concierge, secret police, short order cook, or lady’s maid. Your child is hard-wired for competence. Let them do things for themselves.

9. Before you nag, remind, criticize, advise, chime in, preach, or over-explain, say to yourself “W.A.I.T.” or “Why am I talking?” Listen four times more than you talk.

10. Remember that disappointments are necessary preparation for adult life. When your child doesn’t get invited to a friend’s birthday party, make the team, or get a big part in the play, stay calm. Without these experiences she’ll be ill-equipped for the real world.

11. Be alert but not automatically alarmed. Question yourself. Stop and reflect: Is this situation unsafe or just uncomfortable for my child? Is it an emergency or a new challenge?

12. Learn to love the words “trial” and “error.” Let your child make mistakes before going off to college. Grant freedom based on demonstrated responsibility and accountability, not what all the other kids are doing.

13. Don’t be surprised or discouraged when your big kid has a babyish tantrum or meltdown. Don’t confuse sophistication with maturity. Setbacks naturally set them back. They set us back too, but we can have a margarita.

14. Allow your child to do things that scare you. Don’t mistake vulnerability for fragility. If you want her to grow increasingly independent and self-confident, let her get her learner’s permit when she comes of age; don’t offer a nuanced critique of her best friend or crush.

15. Don’t take it personally if your teenager treats you like crap. Judge his character not on the consistency of in-house politeness, clarity of speech, or degree of eye contact but on what teachers say, whether he’s welcomed by his friends’ parents, and his manners towards his grandparents, the neighbors, salespeople, and servers in restaurants.

16. Don’t automatically allow your child to quit. When she lobbies passionately against continuing an activity or program that “isn’t how I thought it would be!” it’s tempting to exhaust yourself selling him on the benefits. Instead remind yourself that first impressions are not always enduring; that a commitment to a team or group is honorable; and that your investment (of time and/or money) is not to be taken for granted. But do take her reasoned preferences into account when making future plans.

17. Refrain from trying to be popular with your children just because your parents weren’t as attuned to your emotional needs as you might have wished. Watch out for the common parental pattern of nice, nice, nice…furious!

18. Avoid the humblebrag parent lest you begin to believe that your child is already losing the race. Remind yourself that kids’ grades, popularity, or varsity ranking are not a measure of your worth as a parent (nor theirs as people). Recognize that those other parents are lying.

19. Wait at least 24 hours before shooting off an indignant email to a teacher, coach, or the parent of a mean classmate. Don’t be a “drunk texter.”  Sleep on it.

20. Consider the long-term consequences of finding work-arounds for the “no-candy-in-camp-care-packages” rule. If you demonstrate that rules are made to be broken and shortcuts can always be found, you have given your child license to plagiarize or cheat on tests.

21. Maintain perspective about school and college choices.  Parents caught up in the admissions arms race forget that the qualities of the student rather than the perceived status of the school are the best predictor of a good outcome.

22. Treat teachers like the experts and allies they are. Give your child the chance to learn respect. It’s as important a lesson as Algebra 2. Remember how life-changing a good relationship with a teacher can be.

23. Praise the process and not the product. Appreciating your child’s persistence and hard work reinforces the skills and habits that lead to success far more than applauding everyday achievements or grades.

24. If you want your child to be prepared to manage his future college workload and responsibilities, take care before you hire a tutor, a private coach, or college application consultant. There’s no room for all of them in a dorm room.

25. Rather than lurking, snooping, sniping or giving up, practice sensible stewardship of your child’s online activities. Evaluate her level of self-respect and good judgment in other areas.

26. Treat ordinary household chores and paid jobs as more important learning opportunities than jazzy extracurriculars. With real-world experience, your child will develop into an employable (and employed) adult. That said, accept that older children will get chores done on AST (Adolescent Standard Time).

Which of Mogel’s points really resonates with you? Feel free to post them in the comments on our Facebook Page. Consider choosing one of these ideas to focus on as the year begins. I am proud to work for a school where the teachers are constantly asking themselves (and one another) how we can best foster self-efficacy and self-confidence in our children!

My favorites are #1, #7, #14 and #21

-Seth Pozzi
Head of School





Retrieved from: http://www.wendymogel.com/articles/item/overparenting_anonymous at 11:32 a.m. on August 25, 2015..

High Quality Free Joomla Templates by MightyJoomla | Design Inspiration FCT