Question Broken Systems with Solutions in Mind

      43 Comments on Question Broken Systems with Solutions in Mind

Why do we settle for broken schools when we see so many brainy teens brimming with quality character come to class? While Chancellor Michelle Rhee attempts to rejuvenate Washington DC’s poor performing schools, with higher expectations and tactics to rise to them, teens drop out in growing numbers.

Our long term goal is to make DC public schools the highest-performing urban school district in the country and to close the achievement gaps that exist between white students and poor minority students in the city,” Rhee said. Do you see rejuvenation happening for many teens? Or do you see teens lost in tired schools, created for another era, and retained by people who’ve lost their vision for all that learning could be?

After firing 200 unqualified faculty and rewarding others, Rhee added: “Tenure has no educational value for kids.” Do you agree?

Some people support renewal initiatives in US school districts in order to regain our place in the world stage of ideas. Others,  like Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers,  criticize leaders like Rhee for “creating a fear situation among teachers,” and for “breeding anxiety” by threatening to tamper with teachers’ tenure. I see a possible window to retrofit broken schools with vibrant learning skills for on-going growth. Teens deserve more! Let’s offer them hope based more on their extravagant brains than on broken schools and teacher tenure. You?

In order to rejuvenate schools together, adults require  tone skills. It takes keen communication acumen to differ with the brain in mind, and yet work progressively together for teens’ benefit.

If we didn’t have new research to prove that teens’ and adults’ plasticity can develop and expand multiple intelligences in secondary schools, then under-performing schools may seem less tragic.  Sadly, in-fighting within so many  of this nation’s high schools currently robs any vision of greatness.  Imagine how schools could stoke teens’ learning if they engaged students’ full range of intelligences.

Smart skill 9 – Question Broken Systems with Renewal in Mind

My own city struggles with the same problems we see in DC schools. Morale plummets along with students’ achievement in Rochester, NY, while teens’ chances for success dwindle in too many secondary schools. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Here are brain facts that could build great schools, if we place students first and pull together:

1. Autism is teachable and J-Mac, a Greece Athena secondary student with autism wrote a best selling book to show how.
2. Multiple intelligences as seen in Einstein, Mozart, Bill Gates, Golda Mair and Oprah, tend to lie idle in many bored teens.
3. High performance settings lead to mind-bending results that teens often crave, but rarely receive in classes they attend.
4. Curiosity-building is an effective way to move from problems into solutions and genuine applications with more students at school.
5. Good tone skills among  teachers and students help people to grow together respectfully across differences. Tone skills are learned, and rarely appear accidentally.
6. Opposing viewpoints contribute to deeper perspectives when engaged with supports from facts on both sides of topics.
7.  Sleep problems are directly related to poor performance levels and improved sleep can increase teens’ learning success.
8. Stress that comes from poor learning situations, can literally shrink a teen’s brain, and shut down further learning.
9. Two-footed questions help students to problem solve, make better decisions, and to create quality products, by engaging at least eight intelligences as unique learning tools for teens.
10. Lectures work against the human brain, yet teens retain about 90% when they  teach others at the same time as they learn themselves. Compare that to less than 5% retained through lectures, and you’ll see the problems that plague traditional secondary schools.

Why do we settle for in-fighting, and foster outmoded myths that hold teens back, when research offers so many cutting edge brain facts that could land this nation’s secondary schools onto center stage, with a rejuvenated competitive edge. We owe it to teens to work more with their amazing brains, and less within  broken systems that hold them back. What do you suggest as the best starting place for change to help teens you know?

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43 thoughts on “Question Broken Systems with Solutions in Mind

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  30. eweber Post author

    What I like about this Robyn, is that it also teaches both adults and teens to look more at solutions than problems, as part of the learning process. When a lesson topic gets tossed into the ring you suggest here, students can be guided to investigate, process, question, extend, apply and create alternative possibilities. That is where multiple intelligences come alive, unless these are squashed by teacher talk – which happens during lectures.

    To help this process – great lectures could be placed online for students’ reference as facts they’ll need to apply to move toward their next level in any solution. What do you think?

  31. eweber Post author

    Jim, you build a great case for hope! Thanks! How refreshing that Barak has proven the way by walking it ahead of us! In so many similar ways you have too Jim, and we can now build on what each leader adds!

    I share with you much grief for the kids who come with talent and leave our broken systems with little more than boredom or despair! It does not need to be that way, and it serves nobody when it is so broken!

    Jim, like you – I am convinced that great learning can happen for all. MITA renewal and my own life’s work has been given over to that fact, and our teens deserve what we have to offer. All of them – need all of us!

    Obama can only do as much as we’re doing to support and help his vision. On this note Jim — we deeply share the sense that ALL kids can learn well – whenever we create the setting wherein their learning can take place.

    Like you, I too believe that when we bring together different races, cultures, beliefs and genders in ways that inspire growth for all — we open floodgates for genuine talent to blossom! IT’S THE KIND OF WORLD I WANT TO LIVE IN AND THE KIND OF FUTURE I HOPE TO LEAVE FOR YOUTH I CARE ABOUT. Thanks for saying it so well, Jim! Thanks also for the leadership that helps to make it happen!!

  32. JD

    With out hope you have nothing, many kids shut down to learning because they saw no benefit. A broken system, few role models, poor self esteme, little encouragement, and the celebration of hip hop, sports and crime as heros. I celebtate hip hop and sports as well but we need balance. Presendent elect Obama has shown, “yes we can!” The lessons to us all, teachers, administrators and parents is we must demand excellence and reward our student stars in the same manner as our sport stars.
    There is nothing sadder than watching kids with terrfic talent performing down to expectations of a society based on negative sterotypes. it is nice to learn of great things being done in upstae new York!
    Leadership is a key, do we have any young black candidates that could replace our former Senator Clinton and provide more inspiration for kids to learn?
    Think about, there was a time when great learning took place in 1 room schools, because the children of former slaves saw education as a way out. Poor schools are an excuse but if we improve our attitudes about black kids and their abilities to learn and demand the same of the kids,it will keep hope alive untill the infrastructures of innercity schools improve.

    JDs last blog post..Let’s Do What We Do!

  33. eweber Post author

    Bill, your vision for a new Regional School in Rochester ALREADY has awakened instincts to re-fire teens brains and rekindle care in their direction!! Thanks for the leadership!

    Whenever we look to the extravagance of the teenage brain as you do, we’re compelled to shape new pathways forward to help them develop and build.

    A lifetime in the field on national and global stages with teens, convinces me that learners in your school will enjoy both higher motivation and achievement! In your work we see two new oars for the journey out of boredom and discouragement – and the MITA Brain Based Center will support that dynamic trek in any ways we can.

  34. Bill Cala

    Right on the mark, Ellen. Hopefully, the new Regional School in Rochester will awaken our instincts to turn kids’ brains on by meeting their need for meaningful context and their need to be loved and appreciated.


  35. eweber Post author

    Thanks Wally! You touched a linchpin where the problems live, and it makes me wonder how we can lead with the brain in mind – to re-center schools back to learning for teens?

    How can we inspire teachers, for instance, to question more, and to risk rejuvenated ways that you suggest here, so that teens and teachers explore life-changing ideas together?

    What would free teens and teachers from lockstep approaches that shut down brainpower, and instead trigger curiosity for answers that extend beyond school settings to solve real world problems?

    How could we revisit Piaget’s discoveries of bell curves as influenced more by different teaching approaches, and then guide more students to move to the top of the bell – based more on the extravagance of the human brain, than on deficit approaches that block its phenomenal reaches for a better way?

    You triggered key questions, Wally – that could jump-start stalled systems and refuel learner’s curiosity to lead a finer way! Thanks for inspiring the rest of us to chase down rejuvenation as a way to spark higher performing minds!

  36. Wally Bock

    Wonderful post, Ellen. There are so many issues wrapped up here. There are boatloads of problems with education in the US today, but a you can sum up many of them with this: we run most of our schools for the convenience of the faculty and administration as opposed to the education of the students.

    We consistently teach from abstract theory which is easier for teachers to teach. We could teach from concrete examples which is better for students.

    We have a system that moves in lockstep through the grades. A student in the sixth grade is that grade for every subject even if he or she reads at the ninth grade level and does math at the fourth.

    We have a system that is designed for the children in the middle of the bell curve. Special needs children and exceptionally bright children often have to make their own way.

  37. eweber Post author

    Thanks for your kind words Mike, and special thanks for dropping by to help us move this discussion even deeper. There is amaing power in music that can help the learning and understanding process. Ypu’d also enjoy what each of the music types do – which is illustrated at Like you I too like to try out the research ideas, to see how these work out in daily practice. That is where the neuro action gets far more exciting – because it impacts lives!

  38. Michael Logan

    Dr. Weber,

    I am greatful (grateful?) for your passion. I hope you never lose touch with your it. I am so intrigued by your ideas. Just signed up for your feed. Over the years I have used hemi-sync tapes binaural beat tapes, and the links you know of will really help me to understand that process. I used to play Carlos Nikai in my domestic violence perp groups, low, in the background, during group, and I had numerous requests to know what the music was, because it was so relaxing to them. Little did they know it was really for me. Mike Logan

    Michael Logans last blog post..Nov 27, Frugal Gift Ideas

  39. eweber Post author

    Seems to me that great learning requires us all to ride the bus while pushing it at the same time. Learning can be great and can become an elevator out of poverty and hopelessness:-) Do you agree?

  40. rummuser

    Ellen, the problem is that the ‘having arriveds’ not willing to give back something to society. Parents of teens have abdicated parenting to ill equipped and ill trained teachers. The whole system of education, all over the world has become competitive and examination oriented. The purpose of education being one for learning to learn and learning to think have disappeared. There are some exceptions but they are not enough to bring about the kind of changes that can be brought about. Our generation has missed the bus.

    rummusers last blog post..Marriage Violence and Divorce.

  41. eweber Post author

    Thanks Eva, for stopping by, and for your thoughtful insights! I’ve been a student of the brain for all of my adult life and taught secondary school and university for many years. It’s amazing how motivation and achievement rise whenever we factor in the learner’s brain and when we create tactics to engage their brainpower:-)

    I’ve introduced my MITA brain based renewal model for learners and leaders in Europe where it won amazing awards. It’s great to think we can work together — because the problems are critical and too many people with good brains are losing unnecessarily!

    This is my life work – and while I am far too busy, I LOVE IT DEARLY! How exciting to see people come alive where learning was dead:-)

  42. Eva Ulian

    I feel there has to be a selection system of some sort. Here in Italy this is lacking and all students are taught the same thing in the same way and the exams are all the same. There are some students who are prepared to go to prestigious universities and others who having scraped through the High School Certificate having practically wasted in wrath and anger five years or more of their lives will get some manual job or other. These latter students are the ones who create all the problems for teachers. They don’t want to learn, they are disruptive, they will cause anguish to the teacher, they will hold others back and so on… Why does the government and parents insist on them having this precious High School Certificate at all costs? These students should be given another type of High School Certificate, another type of education, one where they can learn and want to learn those elements of life that pertain to their sphere of understanding. At the moment the government in Italy is teaching how to breathe to too many fishes out of water- is that the problem in the US too?

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