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Stories by Leah Shafer

By Leah Shafer 03/21/2017 3:27 PM EDT
Schoolwide SEL to Prevent Bullying
What are the social-emotional skills that can that work against the impulse to harass or exclude? What about the skills that build a predisposition toward empathy and compromise? Developmental psychologist Stephanie Jones, whose lab explores the impact of high-quality social-emotional interventions, helped us trace the connections between SEL and bullying prevention. Which social-emotional skills help children accept peers who are different from them? They need empathy and perspective-taking skills, but those begin with a basic understanding of the emotions of self and others. This basic...
By Bari Walsh, Leah Shafer 03/15/2017 11:13 AM EDT
Growth Mindset and Children’s Health
For at least the last decade, educators have understood the powerful connection between mindset and achievement — that when students believe they can learn a given subject, even a hard one, they stick with it longer, and do better, than if they believe they can’t learn or are “just bad at it.” But the role of mindset could be just as important in children’s overall health and development, according to a new commentary in the journal JAMA Pediatrics by pediatricians Claudia Mueller and Barry Zuckerman and educational psychologist Meredith Rowe. Medicine already recognizes the persuasive power...
By Leah Shafer 03/03/2017 8:11 AM EST
Photo illustration of teen boys bullying another boy
We asked teenagers from around the country to share their thoughts on why bullying happens, what it takes to be an ally, and how schools can promote kindness. Drawing on their daily experiences at middle and high school, teenagers Sophie Bernstein from Missouri, Lily Horton from California, Nadya Khan from New Jersey, Katie Wong from California, and Ricky Yoo from Georgia provided firsthand insight for the adults working to end bullying and create welcoming schools. The teens are part of the Youth Advisory Board (YAB) at Making Caring Common, an initiative of the Harvard Graduate School of...
By Leah Shafer 02/27/2017 2:12 PM EST
Raising Kind Children
Families foster kindness and respect at home by setting expectations for manners, sharing, and helping with chores. And families hope, often with a tinge of worry, that children will continue those behaviors when parents and caregivers aren't nearby: in the school cafeteria, at a friend’s house, or on Instagram and Snapchat. But guiding children to be empathetic and ethical in their independent lives — even when no one is looking — can be more intentional than that. Here, a set of parenting strategies for teaching children to think ethically, care about the people around them, and create...
By Leah Shafer 02/21/2017 7:56 AM EST
Teacher leading discussing with diverse group of elementary school students
When the news is filled with racialized rhetoric or violence, teachers need to be prepared to discuss these topics with their students — especially when those students are people of color, economically disadvantaged, immigrants, or undocumented. It may be tempting to think of your classroom as an unaffected space, but students are going to hear about traumatic events anyway. Many may feel anxious or fearful, making it hard for them to engage academically. And for the students who identify with targeted groups, it can be “dehumanizing not to have their experiences addressed in schools and by...
By Leah Shafer 02/21/2017 7:54 AM EST
Anti-Muslim Bias
While bullying prevention programs typically focus on fostering empathy and/or adopting a zero-tolerance policy, combatting anti-Muslim bullying in schools requires a specialized approach. Schools need to both increase religious literacy and foster an understanding of how anti-Muslim racism is part of a broader set of discriminatory practices that target people based on race, religion, and sexual orientation. Students who tease, intimidate, harass, or abuse their Muslim peers may be fearful and angry because they lack knowledge about Islam. They are likely influenced by pervasive stereotypes...
By Leah Shafer 02/09/2017 1:27 PM EST
colorful graphic of African-American girl reaching for a library book, against a stack of books
With racial inequities and divides front and center, how can teachers use this year’s Black History Month in meaningful ways? They can step away from commemorative projects and celebratory rallies — and instead return to the original purpose of this “educational campaign,” says African American education historian Jarvis Givens. Black History Month was always about racial justice and educational opportunity, he says, and the month can stand today “as an example of what it means for practitioners to be empowered and collectively committed to making education purposeful in the lives of students...
By Leah Shafer 01/24/2017 10:58 AM EST
Women's March
We asked master’s candidates Jess Bialecki (Human Development and Psychology), Hannah Brilliant (Teacher Education Program), Bobby Dorigo Jones (Education Policy and Management), Christina Kirby (Mind, Brain, and Education), Sarah Mintz (Teacher Education Program), Megan Red Shirt-Shaw (Higher Education), and Danubia Carmagos Silva (Human Development and Psychology) to share their reasons for participating in the march. Why I march: Danubia: I am marching for my daughter Aaliyah and all the other children in the world. I am marching for immigrant women and their children that similar to my...
By Leah Shafer 01/24/2017 9:58 AM EST
From Research to Action
How can we turn what we know about child development into tangible services and supports for the most vulnerable children? We know that interactions with adults shape children’s neurological and behavioral development, and that long-term hardship can negate the core skills adults need to succeed as caregivers. We’re understanding more and more how these two concepts interact: A stable, supportive relationship with an adult can be the key to a child's health and resilience, despite adversity; conversely, when a caregiver doesn’t have the capacity to provide that support, the child can face...
By Leah Shafer 01/20/2017 8:59 AM EST
illustration depicting silhouette images of people holding hands, with stars along the border
For teachers, principals, and policymakers, the new norms accompanying the Trump Administration mean having to grapple almost daily with ethical dilemmas about free speech, empathy and perspective-taking, and the role of public schools. Professor of Education Meira Levinson and a team of Harvard graduate students have developed three case studies to help, exploring questions about whether and how to accommodate divisive but politically endorsed speech, how to handle student protests, and how to manage controversy and critical thinking in your classroom. Download the Case Studies Politics,...


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