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Can Praise Harm?

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 From the Winter 2012-13 Caller

By Dawn Sieracki & John Mayer

Our 2nd grade class is huddled in a circle on the rug, we’ve cleaned up from our math workshop, and we’re about to leave for lunch. Before we go, we attend to our daily ritual of discussing what we found challenging during math time. I ask, “Did any of you have any ‘Aha!’ moments during math today?” At least five hands shoot into the air, students eager to share what new learning happened for them. Sydney responds, “I was trying to balance a number sentence, but I couldn’t get it to work. I kept trying different numbers and then I realized there was a pattern. I tested the pattern and it worked!” “Hmm,” I respond, “I notice Sydney mentioned it was hard for her, but she kept trying different strategies.” Alex interjects, “Yeah, she didn’t give up because if she did she wouldn’t get smarter.” Twenty heads nod in agreement as they scamper out the door.
 
During lunch, my students sit casually discussing the perennial thought of seven-year-olds, “What do I want to be when I grown up?” They give varied answers from scientist to writer to doctor. The reality is, in our world where the amount of information continues to grow exponentially, they don’t know—as their teacher, I don’t know—what jobs will look like a decade, two decades from now. I do know they will need to know how to access information, how to learn, and, perhaps most importantly,they will need a highly defined internal drive to become flexible, continuous learners. Gone are the days when someone could develop a specific skill set—say, become a software engineer—and then work at that job until retirement. Instead, today’s students will need to survive in an ever-changing environment where the necessary skills and knowledge are continuously expanding.
 
Catlin Gabel has long dismissed the outdated factory model of education, with teachers as dispensers of information, and students as receptacles, moving passively through the system. In the 21st century, we do not need students who are compliantly ingesting information; we need students who are actively creating knowledge. How do we create classrooms that, by their very structure, build a capacity for continuous learning?

What is a growth mindset?

Through the ways we talk to and praise children, parents and teachers are passing along our society’s notion of intelligence. According to psychologist Carol Dweck, four beliefs about success are common in our society:
 
• students with high ability are more likely to display mastery-oriented qualities (the desire for challenge with an attitude of perseverance in the face of adversity)
• success in school directly fosters mastery-oriented qualities
• praise, particularly of a child’s intelligence, encourages mastery-oriented qualities • students’ confidence in their intelligence is the key to mastery-oriented qualities
 
Surprisingly, research shows those beliefs are not true. Dweck’s research has demonstrated that children who have internalized our society’s beliefs about success develop a fixed mindset, the idea that intelligence is wholly innate and they do not have control over it. Children who have internalized a fixed mindset are more likely to shy away from challenges and give up when faced with setbacks. These children often seek out easy successes in order to confirm their self-perception. In other words, the very praise teachers and parents bestow on them, believing it will shore up children and enable them to take on challenges, may be having the opposite effect. In contrast, those with a growth mindset, the notion that intelligence is malleable and they can choose to strengthen it, are more likely to seek challenges and persevere when faced with difficulties.
 
Although language and behaviors fostering a fixed mindset are common in our culture, they are not necessarily prevalent across other cultures. Education researcher Jin Li has studied the cultural frames of children’s learning beliefs, as well as conversation patterns between mothers and children. She found European-American mothers often spoke to their children in ways that supported a fixed sense of self, “I’m so proud of you. You’re so smart.” In contrast, Eastern Asian mothers were more likely to reinforce a malleable sense of self, “I remember when you weren’t very good at _____. How did you get better?” Other cultures are developing a growth mindset in their children; how can we do the same for our children?

What we can do to support a growth mindset

Luckily for all of us, human experience has taught us that the growth mindset can be cultivated, and neuroscience is catching up with supportive evidence of our brain’s malleability. Knowing so, we want to empower children to have a shame-free and lifelong relationship with the possibility of growth. A classroom is the perfect place for such a relationship to begin.
 
Just as any of us can practice in order to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic, so too can we can encourage the habits of mind that help children see challenges as possibility and recognize that easy is not always good. Sydney and Alex’s willingness to discuss challenges is an example of children in the midst of developing a growth mindset. How did we get here?
 
In our classrooms, we have purposefully created a community that honors challenge. We have done so by ritualizing conversations in which perseverance is of primary value because we know it will lead to mastery and success. Dialogues such as the one between Sydney and Alex are now commonplace in our days. In addition to being delightful to listen to, they are important markers of a shift in the tone of the discussions.
 
We teachers are intentional about orchestrating every aspect of our classroom to support this notion of growth. In response to correct math answers, we don’t celebrate with high fives and cheers, but rather ask, “How did you do it? How are you sure? Could you do it another way?” or, depending on what the child had been doing recently, we might respond with, “Last week that was hard for you, what did you change?” Likewise, incorrect answers are not met with, “Try again” but rather we might say, “Aha! Now you’re doing a mathematician’s work . . . let’s find where it went wrong.” These are very small adjustments to any classroom, but the pattern serves to buttress the idea that we are all on a path, moving forward is our goal, and mistakes help us get there—even more than “being correct.”
 
Something meaningful happens to a child’s affect in the classroom with these types of interventions and praise. Many children stop asking if they got it right, because they know that such a question will be met with the challenge for the proof. Rather, they approach the teacher—and one another—with something more like, “I think this is the answer and here’s why.” This confidence and independence is ultimately our goal in the early years of education, when children learn the fundamentals of how to learn—which means to be independent, reflective, and thoughtful about the process. When confidence is paired with a lack of shame that comes from mutual celebrations for sticking with something hard, children know they are on a path like we all are 

Stretch projects: a shift in thinking

In combination with these everyday ways of talking to children, perhaps the most profound shift in our classrooms happened when we implemented what we called “stretch projects.” Students designed and built projects where they would intentionally work on getting better at something that is hard for them. We’d been learning about Harvard researcher Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences. We presented the idea that we are all good at lots of things but also have plenty to stretch towards, and that no two people’s stretches would be exactly the same. When asked early in November to articulate their struggles to the class, there was a predictable embarrassment from some kids until one brave boy spoke clearly and openly about his struggles to learn to read. “I’ve been trying and trying and I see some of my friends reading hard books that my mom reads to me. I know I’ll get it, but it’s hard for me.”
 
Here is a child who inherently understood that his struggles were just that, his struggles, nothing to be ashamed of. At this public admission, the ice broke; the empathic stories of struggling to learn to ride a bike, write letters in the right direction, or make a friend on the playground came pouring out. The truth that we all struggle was coming out into the open. Once there, we decided to collectively tackle these challenges by designing projects that would stretch us in purposeful ways. Upon systematizing the practice, and giving language to what it is to struggle, the playing field of the classroom was newly leveled. There weren’t smart kids and less smart kids; there weren’t math kids and reading kids. Instead the classroom identity is a collective one of learners grappling with how to grow purposefully.
 
Second grade teacher John Mayer has been at CG since 2006. He holds an MAT from Lewis & Clark College. Dawn Sieracki has been a 2nd grade teacher at CG since 2011. She holds a BS in elementary education from Bradley University and an MA in educational leadership from Maryville University.
 

CITATIONS AND REFERENCES

Boulanger, Lisa M. “Immune Proteins in Brain Development and Synaptic Plasticity.” Neuron Review 64 (2009): 93-109.
 
Dweck, Carol. “Even Geniuses Work Hard.” Educational Leadership 68 (2010): 16-20.
 
Dweck, Carol. Self-Theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development. Philadelphia, PA: University Press, 2000
 
Kanevsky, Lannie. “Deferential Differentiation: What Types of Differentiation Do Students Want?” Gifted Child Quarterly 55 (2011): 279-299.
 
Li, Jin. “Cultural Frames of Children’s Learning Beliefs.” In Jensen, Lene Arnett, Bridging Cultural and Developmental Approaches to Psychology: New Syntheses in Theory, Research, and Practice, 26–44. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2011.
 
 

 

 

Where in the world are CG students?

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Mid-March is go time for Catlin Gabel’s global education program. Five groups, three from the Upper School and two from the Middle School, are spread across three continents.

Upper School students are traveling to Guatemala, France, and China.

Middle School students are traveling to Costa Rica and Taiwan.

» Visit the global education section of the website for trip details and to follow student blog posts 

 

Robotics team wins top regional award, qualifies for world championships

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Congratulations!

The Catlin Gabel Flaming Chickens won the Chairman’s award for the fourth time! The team will go to the world championships in St. Louis, April 24–28. They've qualified for the world competition five out of six years, more than any other team in Oregon.

» Check out the Flaming Chicken's website for details

2013-14 calendar highlights

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First days of school, holidays, breaks, and end-of-year info

Upper School orientations, book pick-ups, locker assignments (specific dates and times for each grade level to follow)
Tuesday, September 3

Middle School classes begin
Tuesday, September 3

Lower School open house
Tuesday, September 3, 10 a.m. – noon

Lower School classes begin
Wednesday, September 4

Upper School classes begin
Wednesday, September 4

Preschool classes begin for half of class
Kindergarten orientation
Wednesday, September 4

Preschool classes begin for half of class
Kindergarten classes begin
Thursday, September 5

Beginning School – all classes in session
Friday, September 6

Faculty professional development day – no classes
Friday, October 18

Thanksgiving break
Monday, November 25 - Sunday, December 1 (yes, it’s the whole week!)

Winter break
Friday, December 20 - Sunday, January 5 (note: Friday is a no-school day)

Classes resume
Monday, January 6

Martin Luther King Jr. Day - no classes
Monday, January 20

Faculty professional development day – no classes
Friday, February 14

Presidents' Day - no classes
Monday, February 17

Spring break (note: Friday is a no-school day)
Friday, March 21 – Sunday, March 30

Memorial Day – no classes
Monday, May 26

Last day of classes
Friday, June 13

Graduation
Saturday, June 14

Reserved days for closure make-up (if we have three or more unplanned closures)
June 16 – 18

New student enrollment for 2013-14

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Please carefully read these instructions

Each signer will receive an email from DocuSign with his or her own link to each child’s contract. Each of you must use your own link to access your copy of the contract, complete the form, and add your signature. DocuSign will combine everything into one contract per child, with multiple signatures. Once all parties sign, the contract is complete and each party receives a confirmation email. Detailed enrollment instructions follow and DocuSign help line is available at 1-866-219-4318. 

STEP 1 — Open the DocuSign link

When you first open the link, you will see a small overview screen that gives you the following options:

  • agree to do business electronically with Catlin Gabel, and go on to review and sign your documents
  • decline the contract using the button at bottom right 
  • finish later saves your work for finishing later
  • sign on paper leads to options for downloading, printing, and sending hard copy by fax or mail
  • change signer is only for cases in which the original recipient should not be a signer, and wants to transfer that to someone else

STEP 2 – Review, sign, and confirm the online enrollment contract

Each signer should access and sign the electronic contract(s) via the link sent to his/her email account.

Pages 1 and 2:  Click "Start" and select a tuition payment plan. All parties need to select the same option. The first signer’s selection is visible to successive signers.

Consider tuition insurance. The option to decline ("no") or accept ("yes") tuition insurance must be selected to complete the contract. Your family is responsible for the year’s tuition even if you leave before the end of the school year. More information on tuition insurance is attached to this email.  All parties need to select the same option. The first signer’s selection is visible to successive signers.

Page 3:  Add your electronic signature. DocuSign will generate different styles for you. The style you select will be saved so next time you sign, you’ll use the same signature.

Complete the billing information. If more than one household is responsible for monthly charges, please specify which charges are for each household and let us know if you would like a statement showing only these specific charges.

Page 4:  Choose a payment method so we know how to expect your payment. If you are bringing in or sending a check, please print this page and include it with your payment. If you are selecting method 4 to set up automatic payments for your bank account, use the ACH form on the next page. Please review all of page 4 before confirming your signature.

Page 5:  ACH form for people who set up automatic debit payments. This form can also be downloaded below.

After you have confirmed your signature, you will be able to print, save or download the contract for your records. A copy will also be sent to all signers via email when the contract is complete.

STEP 3 — Send payment to the business office by the date specified in your contract 

Please use one of the following methods to pay your deposit

  1. Mail or drop off a check to: Catlin Gabel School, 8825 SW Barnes Rd, Portland, OR 97225  attn: business office
  2. Make a payment through your bank’s online bill pay service
  3. Set up an ACH debit to pay the deposit and ongoing monthly and tuition charges. Use form and include bank information or contact Mary Ann Rogers in the business office at 503-203-5114 or rogersm@catlin.edu.

Both the completed contract and deposit amount are required for enrollment to be complete.

Helpful tips

  • Please contact DocuSign's help line at 1-866-219-4318 if you have questions or difficulties with the online process.
  • Contracts signed by one parent from one email are not considered complete. Each signer must complete the contract using the link in his or her own separate email.
  • Sometimes we send both contracts to the same email, but in that case each parent/guardian still needs to sign the contract from that email address.  
  • The forms and your signature are absolutely secure. DocuSign is used for many confidential transactions such as mortgage closures. More information is available on the DocuSign website  
  • Payment must be submitted separately.
  • If you wish to re-enroll but do not want to use our online system, use the Sign on Paper option.

If you still have questions…

…about re-enrollment, please contact Marabeth Passannante in the admission office. 
…about billing options, please contact Mary Ann Rogers in the business office.
…about financial aid, please contact Mary Yacob in the financial aid office.

We look forward to seeing your family on campus next year!

Supporting links and documents

Catlin Gabel Bus Service
Before and After-School Care

Science Bowl team places 2nd in regionals

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Congratulations!

Terrance Sun, Valerie Ding, Lawrence Sun, Ben Hutchings, and Nick Petty beat out 64 other teams from Oregon and Washington to earn the 2nd place trophy in the BPA Regional Science Bowl. The competition was fierce.

We congratulate our scientists and the scientists from Mountain View High School for their 1st place finish.  

Head search committee chair invites community participation, announces search firm

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A letter from Peter Steinberger

Dear Catlin Gabel community members,

On behalf of the Head of School Search Committee, and even as the search process is just getting under way, I am writing to the entire Catlin Gabel community to describe where we are and how we intend to proceed.

I should say at the outset that the members of the committee are all honored and delighted to participate in this important process. Of course, the responsibility is daunting. We have very large shoes to fill, and it will be a challenge for all of us. Nonetheless, the committee is confident that we will find a terrific Head of School who will build wonderfully on the many great accomplishments under Lark’s leadership.

Let me also say that you should not hesitate to contact me if you have any suggestions, concerns, questions or comments. This is an honest invitation. The committee is committed to a process that is open, inclusive and, to the greatest degree possible, transparent; and we frankly seek your advice and counsel. As the process unfolds, formal opportunities will exist for a great many members of the Catlin Gabel community—teachers, staff, trustees, students, parents, alumni and friends—to provide input. But in the meantime, and indeed throughout the search, you should feel free to share your thoughts; and certainly could include thoughts about who, in your opinion, might be a strong candidate for Head of School. For convenience sake, the best way to communicate would be by email at searchchair@catlin.edu, or by phone (503-777-7231). I would be delighted to hear from you, and I can assure you that I will act as a faithful messenger to the search committee.

I am extremely pleased to report that we have retained the services of Bob Fricker and his associate Sherry Coleman—both representing the nationally prominent firm of Carney, Sandoe and Associates—to serve as our search consultants. The process of selecting a consultant was intensive and highly competitive, and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Bob and Sherry. Together, they bring to the search not only a wealth of experience and insight, but also a deep understanding of all things that make Catlin Gabel such a special place.

As a first step, our consultants will work with the search committee to write a profile. This central document serves to introduce the school to prospective candidates, describes our goals and ambitions, and effectively functions as a job description. Toward this end, Bob and Sherry will visit campus in early March for a whirlwind series of meetings with members of the Catlin Gabel community. Details will be worked out shortly, but it is certain that all constituencies will be well represented, and we hope to have one or more open forums that will allow all lovers of Catlin Gabel to participate.

From there, the process is apt to be relatively straightforward. The spring will largely be devoted to building the applicant pool. During the summer, our consultants, along with the search committee, will work to construct a short list of preferred candidates and, from there, a small set of semi-finalists for the search committee to interview face to face. On the basis of these interviews, and if all goes according to plan, we hope to have perhaps two or three finalists on campus for open, public interviews, possibly as early as mid-to late-September. We would like to be able to announce our new Head of School sometime in October.

Of course, the most rigorous and well-conceived plan rarely unfolds exactly as anticipated. We are searching in a complex environment, and this may indeed require us to be flexible. As contingencies arise, we will endeavor to keep you posted. Be assured, in any case, that we are strongly committed to finding just the right person for Catlin Gabel, and to do so in a way that is fully faithful to the spirit and tradition of the school.

On behalf of the search committee, I can say that we very much look forward to working with the entire Catlin Gabel community. And again, I would be delighted to learn of any thoughts you might have regarding this very important project.

Peter Steinberger, Chair
Head of School Search Committee

19 students receive a record-breaking 45 awards from the Portland Metro Scholastic Art Competition

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Students were honored in photography, sculpture, drawing, painting, and mixed media

Congratulations to the following Upper School students who helped Catlin Gabel sweep the competition! Several students won more than one award.

Xander Balwit, Matt Junn, Fiona Noonan, Maya Rait, and Zoe Schlanger earned Gold Key honors.

Matt Junn won Silver Key honors for his entire portfolio and for individual pieces.

Other Silver Key honors were awarded to works by Katie Fournier, Max Luu, Hayle Meyerhoff, Nadya Okamoto, Kristin Qian, Craig Robbins, Hannah Rotwein, Zoe Schlanger, Alexandra van Alebeek.

Honorable mention recipients are Violeta Alvarez, Anna Dodson, Adele English, Kelsey Hurst, Matt Junn, Kallisti Kenaley-Lundberg, Thomas Newlands, Fiona Noonan, Craig Robbins, Hannah Rotwein, Zoe Schlanger, and Alexandra van Alebeek.

Next stop regionals, followed by the national competition.

Welcome to our friends from Gifu Kita School in Japan!

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Fourteen students and two teachers from Gifu Kita Senior High School in Japan are visiting Catlin Gabel from January 4 to 11.

Catlin Gabel and Gifu Kita have had a sister school relationship since 1992. We value our shared history of hosting students in homestays and classrooms, and introducing each other to our respective cultures. We have learned so much from each other!

For a real treat, come to the Upper School assembly on Monday, January 7, from 11:25 a.m. to 12:25 p.m. Our guests from Japan always put on an amazing performance at this highlight event.

More about Gifu Kita High School 

Gifu Kita Senior High School is located in the north end of Gifu City in Gifu Prefecture, Japan. For more than 70 years, Gifu Kita High School has prided itself on academic excellence and its ability to provide a wide range of extracurricular activities to its more than 1,000 students.

As one of the top-ranked schools in Gifu Prefecture, almost all of their students apply to go to university following graduation, with the vast majority attending private or national universities.

Gifu Kita also offers a wide range of sports and cultural clubs. A number of these clubs have participated in National and Tokai District Competitions over the last few years.

 

Middle School robotics teams take 1st and 2nd place at regionals, qualify for state

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Way to go!

Congratulations to the RoboSNAILS for their 1st place win in a tough competition against 20 teams. The team members are 8th graders Robin Attey, Matt Maynard, Grace Wong, Liam Wynne, and Sage Yamamoto. They are coached by senior Tucker Gordon. The RoboSNAILS’ research project was designing a website and iOS app to help senior citizens prepare nutritious meals and build community.

Team Sigma came in 2nd with 8th grade members Adolfo Apolloni, Ian Hoyt, Ryan Selden, and 7th grader Roy Stracovsky. Team Sigma had an over-the-top research project with a working model of a walker that senses the user’s location helps guide them. Junior Elyssa Kiva is their coach for the second year in a row.

Our two rookie teams also competed at regionals. Starstruck won the rising star award for the new team with the most promise. They are 6th graders Sujala Chittor, Natalie Dodson, and Amber Merrill. Their research project featured a puppet show presentation of a device that changes light bulbs. Senior Martina Dimitrov was their coach.

Sophomore Rushdi Abualhaija coached team Delta with 6th graders Avi Gupta, Tyler Nguyen, Quinn Okabayashi, Kian Palmer, and Spencer Shoemaker. Their research project was a working model of an Internet-programmed medication dispenser.

The state competition is on January 20. Good luck to the RoboSNAILS and Team Sigma!