Friday, July 14, 2017

APA Psychology Summit Days 5 & 6

Hi All,

This is Chuck again posting the final concurrent blog post on the APA Psychology Summit in Ogden, Utah at Weber (Wee-burr) State University. These represent my reflections and perceptions and not those of the event organizers.

As I write this, I am in a hotel room in Park City, Utah, east of Salt Lake City. It was the location of the 2002 Winter Olympics as well as the Sundance film festival. I mention this to emphasize that when you have conferences/meetings you attend, see if you can find out if you can add a day or more to the time in the area to take in the local sites. My plan is to go hiking in the Wasatch Mountains tomorrow morning to see how well I can handle the altitude. I live near sea level in California. I've already walked part of the city and had dinner. As I was driving here, my lack of sleep caught up with me and once I got to the hotel room, I crashed.

Thursday events

Last push with our presentations--editing and practice--each group had only ten minutes and each could easily have been an hour. The time constraints really made us focus. We had so much we accomplished within each group and there was so much to share. A common theme of participants was that we wanted more time to present and to listen to the other groups. We had to get creative.

Each strand had recommendations to the APA on what they would like to see in order to accomplish their goals. I cannot emphasize this enough--this will take a few months for some and years or even decades for others. This week was already one dream come true. There are many others that will take time, effort, and advocacy to occur. The younger teachers in the first ten years of their careers will need to take up the mantle and carry out the recommendations on how to improve high school psychology that we came up with and adapt them to the changing conditions of the future.

After hearing the wonderful work that the strand groups completed, we debriefed and went back to the dorms to change clothes. There was a reception at the Alumni House prior to the talk by Dr. David Myers of introductory psychology and social psychology textbooks. He had been with us throughout the day exchanging stories with anyone who spoke with him. He is an incredibly kind and receptive man.

Prior to dinner, we moved to the Dumkey room where we were treated to Dr. Myers talk titled, "Teaching Psychological Science in a Post-Truth Age." As a good scientist, every time he made an assertion, he backed it up with data and logical support. He also had a nice collection of relevant cartoons to illustrate his points.

Dinner came next with lots of socializing and connecting there at the alumni house. We made our way back to the dorm where there were at least three different lounges and kitchens where conversations took place. Though we worked during our day sessions, we got to know each other as fellow humans outside the world of psychology and got to know some of each others' stories. The week left me so amped and stoked, I did not want to go back to my room and to sleep. I stayed out talking with my new and old friends until about 12:30 am. I got less than six hours of sleep going into Friday morning. Just like in college, it was worth it.

Friday wrap-up

In the morning, most of us were up later than usual and speedily packing for our return flights home. Even after staying up late the night before, Tomee Pace led her group in one last yoga session at 6:30 am.  During breakfast, we shared the microphones and thought about our next steps as individuals. The APA will be taking the recommendations to the Education Directorate and the Board of Educational Affairs.

We finished with last goodbyes, hugs, tears, and a variety of feelings that were warm and fuzzy. Suitcases were lugged, keys and cards were turned in and transitions back to "real life" begun. It was a life-changing experience for me.

There will be more to come regarding the conclusions, the recommendations, and the next steps that we will be taking in our part of the field of psychology.

Once I get home and settled next week, I will post some pictures.

Charles Schallhorn (L) and Dr. David Myers (R)

Conclusions and Reflections

I left the week some incredibly motivated, energized, and inspired. In talking with several people, none had ever had a professional experience as powerful like this. My experience includes a month at the National Science Foundation at Eastern Illinois where I met Kent Korek of APSI and THSP blog fame, and two weeks at Nebraska Wesleyan where I met Randy Ernst, Charlie Blair-Broeker, Rob MacEntarffer, Alan Feldman, and many others. A large number of us remain friends to this day. Others had been at the St. Marys Conferences, others at the P3 conference, and other attempts to advance the level and quality of high school psychology.

The first word of the conference was "Science"
The last word of the conference was "Champion"
Talk to participants to see what each of those words means to them.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

APA Psychology Summit Day 4

What day is it? Wait, Wednesday? I thought it was Tuesday. Time has no meaning here except when it is meal time.

Today was an early day with lots of work. Deadlines loom as we are presenting our strand's "deliverable's" tomorrow.

At breakfast, we had a presentation and workshop led by Dr. Karen Studwell and Alexandra Ginsberg of the APA Education Directorate Government Relations Office. They shared with us what the APA does in Washington, D.C. in terms of trying to influence policymaking in Congress. They shared strategies that we can use back in our own schools, districts, and states. There is a guide to advocacy that they shared that can be found at this link.

After working the rest of the morning in our strands, we had lunch and then shared out our personal next steps as to what we could do to advocate and work for psychology. Ideas included contacting local, state, and national officials about the importance of education and psychology education; contacting our state department of education to advocate for including the Psychology National Standards for the psychology courses. Several people discussed working with local universities to attempt to create partnerships. Others talked about reaching out to younger teachers and bringing them into the fold to work together to present at conferences, run for office and extend beyond their classes and districts. There were many other ideas shared that will be compiled and shared with people within the TOPSS group. One of our goals in TOPSS is to bring in more members to improve the field of teaching psychology at the high school level. Only through communication and awareness.

We had a short meeting in the afternoon prior to going on a brief excursion. The majority of participants live in the flatlands and wanted to see mountains. They went to Ogden Valley that included Snowbasin Ski Resort, Shooting Star Saloon, and Oaks Restaurant. I am told the town was a one-street town. They had an excellent host whose name I do not know.

My group was led by Dr. Carla Trentelman, a sociologist who has lived in the region for many years. She gave us many insights about the Salt Lake Basin/region that I took notes on and will bullet point below. Our trip was to Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake that lies several miles off the coast of central Utah near Ogden. We were able to drive there via a causeway. At one time, the water was so high that for about ten years, people could not drive to the island, but had to take boats. For the record, we did see one bison and a small herd of antelope.

When we returned from our excursions, we had a working dinner. Most groups worked until past 8:30.

Facts about Utah and the Great Salt Lake

  • this region is considered high desert
  • the Great Salt Lake (GSL) is a saline lake and a terminal lake--there are rivers than run into it, but goes nowhere else--when the water evaporates, it leaves behind salt and other minerals leaving a bathtub ring-like deposit--over time the salt builds up
  • the water is too salty for fish
  • brine shrimp can live in the salt--you may know them by a brand name, "Sea Monkeys"
  • this buildup of deposits can be blown by unpredictable storms similar to dust storms
  • the lake depth averages between 20 and 45 feet deep
  • the lake's area has ranged from 950 square miles at its lowest/smallest to 2300 square miles with an average of 1700 square miles--it is huge--smaller in North America only to the Great Lakes 
  • the lake keeps the areas East of the lake cooler
  • the GSL has a large population of migratory birds who feed on the brine shrimp and the brine shrimp flies
  • if you drive by Salt Lake City on I-80 to the south or drive north on I-15, you will notice and odiferous stench emanating from the lake. Truth is that it is not the lake--it is the treated wastewater that comes from the three large counties nearby emptying in the southeast portion of the lake called Farmington Bay.

Below are some pictures from today by me, and several others.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

APA Psychology Summit Day 3

Today's post will be quite a bit shorter than the last two. Today was work and more work. We had no special speakers or illustrious guests outside of the outstanding group of people who are here. As I write this, it is 10:45 pm local time. After dinner, we have had shuttle buses taking us back to the campus. After several hours of work with our groups, most of us are knackered. Despite our sleepiness, even many of us who were up early continued so many important conversations.

I cannot emphasize how important these conversations are. Imagine you are passionate about some topic. Now fill a room with 70+ people who are just as passionate about your topic. Then give all of them experiences worth sharing to other individuals and groups. There is no real "down time" for most of us here. We get up, begin talking with others about something psych or summit-related. Then we have breakfast, talk some more, and move to our strand groups to work on our goals, our deliverables, and our recommendations to the APA regarding our topics. As a reminder, here are our strands:
  1. Psychology as Science
  2. Skills that Improve Flourishing and Well-Being
  3. National Standards for High School Psychology Education
  4. Assessing Skills and Content in Psychology
  5. Identifying and Credentialing High School Psychology Teachers
  6. Ongoing Professional Development
  7. Diversity and Access
  8. Technology and Online Learning
As you can imagine, each strand bleeds over into another. Of course, you realize that if you are talking about psychology as a science, you need to discuss what the standards are going to look like. If you are on assessing skills and content, that connects to not only the standards but which skills? How do those skills relate to the other sciences and the skills they develop? If we are going to add the teaching of skills to an introductory psychology course, how will we help teachers learn what the skills are and how to teach them--oh, we need to talk with the professional development strand. One question gets asked often in psychology is, "why are sp many of the people we are studying dead, white men?" So let's talk to the diversity and access strand about their research and recommendations about what diversity is, how diverse the fields of  teaching and psychology are, and how to increase diversity both in research (researchers and research subjects) and in teaching (why do we not have people of color in the American teaching profession? What can we do to change that?) What can/should we do to have teaching and psychology look more like the face of our citizenry?

Now take those questions, multiply them by at least 50 for each strand and things start to get quite complex. Most or all of the strands have subdivided in order to cover more ground and create a more substantive set of recommendations. Each group has its own rationale. Each group needs to talk with and work with other groups to find out directions and decisions being made. It's a human spiderweb of interactions.

Did I mention that there was a freshman orientation on campus this morning? Or how the mountains are looking so inviting? Suffice it to say there are many distractions being in this beautiful party of the country, but passion is overcoming distraction for nearly all of us (I will never be definitive when it comes to human behavior--there are always exceptions to generalizations). It was said during the week that we are really running eight different conferences this week-one for each strand. Other contend that the number is really greater than that with the subgroups. Other say there are even more because of all the sharing of ideas and experiences. Perhaps we are having eight primary conferences and hundreds of tertiary conferences. In any case, cognitive load is taking its toll and we are tired. I'm going to upload a few pictures, post this link to social media, and go to bed. Good night all!

25th St, Downtown Ogden before dinner

Zucca Tratoria Italian Restaurant for Dinner
Sunset Over Ogden (pic credit Schallhorn)

Sunset over Ogden (picture credit Schaffield)

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Monday, July 10, 2017

APA Psychology Summit Day 2

Day two of the APA Psychology Summit began with a leadership meeting in the morning, shortly after Tomee led a group of teachers in yoga. After breakfast (we are being fed quite well), Dr. Eric Amsel, Associate Provost of Weber State, Dr. Aaron Ashley, Psychology Department Chair, and Dr. Charles Wright, President of Weber State all greeted and welcomed us officially for our first day of work.

Next came Dr. Yaira Sánchez, from Academia Marie Reina in Puerto Rico, who introduced Dr. Tammy Hughes of Duquesne University. She valiantly stepped in for the ailing Dr. Frank Worrel for today's keynote speech. She had to take Dr. Worrel's work and presentation on diversity research and make it her own. If we had not known that it was not her presentation and that she had only a week to prepare, we would not have known she was the pinch hitter. She shared many important pieces of research on identity, connection to dominant groups, academic achievement, and connections among these and other variables.

After a brief break, we began to work in our strands.

  1. Psychology as Science
  2. Skills that Improve Flourishing and Well-Being
  3. National Standards for High School Psychology Education
  4. Assessing Skills and Content in Psychology
  5. Identifying and Credentialing High School Psychology Teachers
  6. Ongoing Professional Development
  7. Diversity and Access
  8. Technology and Online Learning
Each working group has two co-chairs and at least six other people to complete the work. There is more to come on the details of what each group will be coming up with and recommending. A big part of this summit is to lay the groundwork and framework for work that will be completed by groups to come later. Some will be within TOPSS such as reworking the national standards and working with the education directorate to obtain funding for more week-long professional development opportunities for psychology teachers as well as taking the resources already in existence and reorganize them and create video demonstrations for teachers to learn how to show a concept in class. So as you can see with both this and with the additional ideas above, there will be work that will be years in progress for this group to begin and for others to continue and/or finish.

During lunch, we viewed a video of students from Maria Vita's classes and Kristin Whitlock's classes about what psychology meant to them. We were already sitting with our teams in our respective strands. We discussed as a group our takeaways from the video and then shared out as a large group from each table. 

After lunch, we returned to our work rooms and spent the afternoon progressing in our various strands. Work was intense and beneficial. The pure joy so many of us felt at working with others who are just as passionate about psychology is so incredibly energizing. Friendships have been both created and continued today.

Dinner was a barbecue of steak or chicken. Excellent food again Weber State!
For some pictures, check out the Facebook page for the NCSS Psychology Group if you are a member. If not, contact Daria Schaffield to become a lifetime member. I have Daria to thanks for most of the pictures posted below. She and friends went on a walk after dinner and saw spectacular views. 

KEn Weaver leading the lunch discussion--Brad Wray and Rob MacEntarffer with the Microphone
Yes, we threw it around the room to speak.  

Our Weber State hosts pose with Tony Puente, APA President

This is the entire summit group of participants at lunch today. Thank you to Emily Chesnes for this photo.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Sunday, July 9, 2017

APA Psychology Summit Day 1

After hours of travel, we gathered on the campus of Weber State University at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains. Some arrived for meetings on the 8th. Most of us arrived today traveling from Connecticut, Puerto Rico, Arizona, Michigan, California, Florida, and other far-flung locales from around the US. Why are we here? Take a look at the details of the Psychology Summit at this link.

Several different groups had lunch at a local pizza place called the Pie Pizzeria. For the math aficionado among us, all the staff had a large 𝝅 on their shirts.

The heat and the altitude combined with a long day of travel created many thirsty travelers. The campus gave us a water bottle in our welcome bag and there are refill stations around campus near every drinking fountain. Great use of resources! Nearly everyone commented on the beauty of the mountains. Some even went for hikes before the events of the late afternoon.

In the morning before everyone else arrived, the steering committee made final decisions about what approaches each of the eight strands were to take. From 2 to 4, there was another leadership meeting that included the current TOPSS board. At 4 pm, all 70 of us or so gathered for refreshments and had a big getting to know you set of conversations as well as some reunions. We were reminded that during all of our work this week, we needed to keep our mission in mind: "to create the best future for high school psychology education." Further solidified later in the talks was the message that there are many people who have taught psychology in some form in secondary schools going back almost 200 years. We are building on their work and the work we are doing is not some final product. We are only beginning this process for others to build on. The is a start point, not an endpoint. There will be many opportunities for people around the country to become involved in what we begin this week.

Dr. Randy Ernst and Dr. Amy Fineberg, steering committee co-chairs, introduced the evening and prepared us for the week to come. CEO of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Arthur Evans send a pre-recorded message to our group. Dr. Jaime Diaz-Granados, Executive Director of the APA Education Directorate share some wisdom. Dr. Tony Puente, President of the APA shared a history of teaching high school psychology showing us where it has been. At the end of his speech, Dr. Puente gave Randy Ernst an award for which no one was aware ahead of time recognizing Randy's contributions over the past 35 years to the teaching of high school psychology.
Randy Ernst and Tony Puente pose after the night's dinner

Kristin Whitlock, TOPSS Chair, introduced Charlie Blair-Broeker, a 38-year veteran of high school psychology. Charlie gave a humorous look at the history of teaching psychology during his lifetime, from the old reel-to-reel projectors to electric typewriters and more. The younger in the audience looked upon some of the tools of education with either bewilderment or horror as they appeared to not be aware of technology before computers. Just saying.

Charlie Blair-Broeker
Tony Puente

The evening was ultimately filled with one of hope and forthcoming effort recognizing that each of us has a part to play in the next steps of what happens in the history of high school psychology. Stay tuned for more.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Thursday, July 6, 2017

APA Summit on High School Psychology Education

APA Summit 
High School Psychology Education 

The American Psychological Association and Weber State University, with generous support from many contributing sponsors, are pleased to host the first-ever APA Summit on High School Psychology Education in Ogden, Utah, July 9-14, 2017. The mission of the summit is to create the best future for high school psychology education. Please visit the Summit website to read about the goals, objectives, and plans for this landmark event.

The keynote addresses for the summit will be live-streamed through the summit website and we encourage anyone interested in learning more about high school psychology to join us online for these talks. Talk details are listed below. 

Recordings of the keynotes will be available online following the summit if you cannot join us live. High school psychology courses are the start of the pipeline into the discipline and help educate the public about psychological science.

High school psychology is a popular course and enrollment in Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate psychology courses, in particular, have increased over the past two decades. The summit steering committee believes that all of APA should have a vested interest in ensuring that the teaching of high school psychology is of high-quality and effective. Outcomes, deliverables, and action plans will be widely shared following the summit.

Details of live streamed talks:

Sunday, July 9, 2017, 7:00 p.m. ET 
Opening Remarks
Randy Ernst, Ed.D., and Amy Fineburg, Ph.D., Steering Committee Co-Chairs
Arthur C. Evans, Jr., Ph.D., CEO, APA
Jim Diaz-Granados, Ph.D., Executive Director, APA Education Directorate
Antonio Puente, Ph.D., University of North Carolina Wilmington, APA President

Sunday, July 9, 2017, 8:30 p.m. ET 
Charlie Blair-Broeker, MAT, Hawkeye Community College
"High School Psychology: A Long and Winding Road"

Thursday, July 13, 7:30 p.m. ET 
David Myers, Ph.D., Hope College
"Teaching Psychological Science in a Post-Truth Age"

Due to unforeseen circumstances, a third keynote address on "Introducing Diverse Perspectives in High School Psychology: Sources and Content" scheduled for Monday, July 10, may not be live streamed but we hope to record the talk to post online following the summit. Please contact with any questions.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Friday, June 23, 2017

Books, Summer Reading, and a Long List

Tsundoku: The Japanese word for buying books that you'll never read. This is me (this is Chuck posting). I possess all the books below. I've purchased most of them in the past year in order to read them "sometime soon." So many book, so little time. I have a habit of purchasing books when I see them recommended in podcasts, in articles, on Facebook or Twitter. This is one of way too many shelves filled with books. Wait, that's not right. There are never too many books!

Most of these can be used by students who are doing summer reading. Apparently, the last time we did a summer reading list was 2013 and can be found here.

My Psychology Summer Reading 

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

APA Convention and Workshop

The information about this year's APA convention is detailed below. There are several opportunities for high school teachers to see the experts and learn more about psychology.

The annual American Psychological Association (APA) Convention will be held August 3-6, 2017, in Washington, DC.  Here are three important reasons to consider attending APA:
1.       Full Day Pre-Convention Workshop for Psychology Teachers

On Wednesday, August 2, the APA Education Directorate is hosting a full day workshop for psychology teachers on hard to teach topics and enhancing the teaching of introductory psychology.  The cost of this workshop is $40 to attend for TOPSS members; breakfast, lunch, and materials will be provided. Presenters are Dana S. Dunn, Ph.D., of Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA, Nancy Fenton of Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, IL, and Jessica Flitter of West Bend High School in West Bend, WI.  For details and to register, please visit  The registration deadline is July 1.  The workshop will be held at Trinity Washington University in the Payden Academic Center.  We hope you will register soon. 

2.       TOPSS Invited Speakers and Reception
The APA Committee of Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools (TOPSS) is pleased to announce the TOPSS invited speakers at Convention.  These sessions will all be held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Friday, August 4:

  • Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., Arizona State University: The Lee Gurel Lecture: The Power of Persuasion 

  • James T. Lamiell, Ph.D., Georgetown University: In the Light of a Star: An Introduction to the Life and Works of William Stern (1871-1938)

  • Randal M. Ernst Lecture: High School Psychology: A Discussion on the 2017 APA Summit, with Randal M. Ernst, EdD, Nebraska Wesleyan University; Amy Fineburg, Ph.D., Jefferson Public Schools; and other summit participants

There will also be a reception for high school psychology teachers at RFD Washington (810 7th Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20001), from 5:00-6:30 PM on Friday, August 4.  We hope you can join us for complimentary drinks and appetizers. 

3.       The APA Convention is an Outstanding Opportunity to Learn about Psychology and Network with Teachers and Psychologists

You can choose from hundreds of sessions on psychology, including numerous plenary addresses on cutting-edge research in the field at APA.  Many sessions are aimed at educators; you can also read about additional convention sessions for teachers through the Society for the Teaching of Psychology website at

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

"Fake News" and Psychology

I've been interested for a while in the psychology of "fake news" - more specifically, how can we help students think more critically about psychological claims they see in the media? Here are a few resources that might be useful - let me know in the comments if you use any of these and/or have other resources to share

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Monday, May 22, 2017

Cognitive Load Theory: the most important psych theory for teachers ever in the history of everything?

A while ago, Dylan Wiliam (one of my favorite educational researchers) posted this dramatic tweet:

When Dylan Wiliam says something like that, I pay attention! But I didn't find the linked paper easy to digest/apply, and I struggled a bit to see what the BIG DEAL was.

BUT this blog post from Dan Williams helped me quite a bit.

The post walks through the theory with an emphasis on how teachers might USE cognitive load research to help students learn. I get to teach a graduate class in the "Psychology of Teaching" and this might turn out to be a "centerpiece" of the class...

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Monday, May 15, 2017

Repost: The Value of Self-Reflection

I share the ideas here from Beth Lewis at  Her words are incredibly important to those of us in the profession.  I give her full and complete credit for the ideas below.  I just wanted to make sure my fellow psychology instructors also saw these.

The Value of Self-Reflection - Any Time Of Year, It's Important To Self-Reflect

Examining What Worked And What Failed In The Past Can Lead To Future Triumphs

By , Guide
In a profession as challenging as teaching, honest self-reflection is key. That means that we must regularly examine what has worked and what hasn't in the classroom, despite how painful it can sometimes be to look in the mirror. Then take your answers and turn them into positive, resolute statements that give you concrete goals on which to focus immediately. Be honest, work hard, and watch your teaching transform for the better!

Ask Yourself These Tough Questions - And Be Honest!

  • Where did I fail as a teacher in the past? Where did I succeed?
  • What is my top teaching goal for the coming year?
  • What can I do to make my teaching more fun while adding to my students' learning and enjoyment?
  • What can I do to be more proactive in my professional development?
  • What resentments do I need to resolve in order to move forward more optimistically and with a fresh mind?
  • What types of students do I tend to ignore or do I need to spend more time serving?
  • Which lessons or units am I only continuing to perform out of habit or laziness?
  • Am I being a cooperative member of my grade level team?
  • Are there any aspects of the profession that I am ignoring out of fear of change or lack of knowledge? (i.e. technology)
  • How can I increase valuable parental involvement?
  • Have I done enough to foster a productive relationship with my administrator?
  • Do I still enjoy teaching? If not, what can I do to increase my enjoyment in my chosen profession?
  • Do I bring additional stress upon myself? If so, how can I decrease or eliminate it.
  • How have my beliefs about learning and pedagogy changed over the years?
  • What minor and/or major changes can I make to my academic program in order to directly increase my students' learning?

What Happens If You Refuse To Self-Reflect

Put earnest effort and pure intention into your self-reflection. You don't want to be one of those stagnant teachers that drably presents the same ineffective and outdated lessons year after year. The unexamined teaching career can lead to becoming just a glorified babysitter, stuck in a rut and no longer enjoying your job! Times change, perspectives change, and you must change in order to adapt and remain relevant in the ever-changing world of education.
Often it's difficult to get motivated to change when you have tenure and "can't be fired" but that's precisely why you must undertake this effort on your own. Think about it while you're driving or doing the dishes. It doesn't matter where you self-reflect, only that you do it earnestly and energetically.
snip snip

Posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

APA Professional Development

For anyone who is looking for inexpensive CE credits or just looking to learn even more about the world of psychology in connection to our careers as educators, the American Psychological Association (APA) offers many opportunities for professional growth. Topics include:

Check out this link for the main professional development page:

Link to full list of PreK-12 learning opportunities available

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Friday, May 5, 2017

Fidget Spinners: What the Heck?

Are "fidget spinners" a big thing at your schools? I volunteer at a middle school once a week and I feel like ai SUDDENLY started seeing them everywhere. I talked with one of the middle school students and he says many students have them now, and he was starting a small business to 3-D print custom spinners (smart kid!)

This conversation got me thinking: what would psychological researchers say about the potential benefits or disadvantages of these kinds of "fidget" devices? Do they help some students selectively attend? Or do they divide student attention and add to "cognitive load?" Is there a learning/conditioning component (students associating learning with the spinning?)

This might be a fun conversation topic with your psych classes. How would researchers study this? What angles would different perspectives take on the topic?

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Monday, May 1, 2017

Good luck on the AP Psych Exam today!

We're sending GOOD VIBES to all the AP psych teachers and students today! Hope your students leave the test feeling great - you worked hard all year, and this is your chance to show what you can do! You got this!

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Friday, April 28, 2017

13 Reasons Why Follow Up: Depression, Suicide, and Prevention

13 Reasons Why Follow Up 

Why I am comfortable talking about suicide? In the previous post, I wrote about my friend Karen. Though I won’t go into detail, my own mother had a 15-year depression that ended in suicide. I have lost students and former students. I am not afraid of this topic. I want to challenge it head on.

 Attitudes and Viewpoints 

“People argue whether the glass is half full or half empty. The point is that the glass is refillable!”

When I read so many complaints about the show, it seems to me that the criticisms are claiming the glass is half full. Critics are correct, but miss the point that there is some excellent content (the water) and is refillable (filled with teachable moments and deep-conversation starters). I must confess that since watching the show and posting the original blog, people keep sharing with me additional articles and points of view. I really appreciate this. It means people are thinking and considering. I love the debate about the show because it is forcing us to deal directly with the issue of teenage depression and suicide without it being a response to an actual suicide in one of our schools/communities.

Image drawn by one of my students who suffers from
depression. These are both how she feels and names
she has been called in high school.

Cautions with 13 Reasons Why

  • The show does not deal with depression and suicide accurately and context is needed 
  • The show could have dealt with those issues differently-and perhaps should have 
  • It deals with adult subject matter that teens often have to deal with
  • Since the show did not, that leaves it up to us 
  • No, we did not produce or direct or edit the show. 
  • I acknowledge that they hired experts and one of the experts did not want the show to be released. Yes, the show is not for everyone--believe me when I say I do understand that 

Yes, 13 Reasons Why gets depression wrong. But it gets so much right. Too many of the criticisms are missing this fundamental point. It's a fictional story but it hits home for our students. One theme that I see in the criticism is that of fear--people are afraid kids are going to use the show as an impetus to die by suicide. Let’s say for a moment that is true. If so, why would we not take the time to educate our kids and adults about depression and suicide so they would not be so easily manipulated? If someone has felt real depression, the thought of suicide, killing oneself, or somehow disappearing will have entered their heads. That much we know. Let’s use this show as a way to talk about what it got wrong and what it got right and what we, as the adults, can do to help our kids in need or in crisis.

Why So Much Discomfort With This Show? 

 Do we spend this much time criticizing romance novels or their popular movie counterparts for getting relationships wrong? How much outrage do we have when popular shows get education wrong? Or when it gets the lives of--fill in the blank--wrong? What if we are focusing on the wrong thing? We are getting angry at the show/producers and ignoring why is it so popular? We are angry about the popularity of a show that depicts suicide in a way that is atypical but ignore why it resonates with so many kids? How much of our discomfort with 13 Reasons Why is projection of our own inability to deal honestly and openly about suicide and depression in general? How much should the condemnation should be redirected back at us for not dealing with bullying and rape culture honestly and directly enough? I mean this sincerely and without blame. We are merely going with the social flow. Teen brains are not yet completely formed and they do stupid things. Teens may not be able to articulate what is wrong but they know when a movie or television series or a book understands them.

Our society has a long history of condemnation and disquiet regarding suicide. Despite various historical events wherein suicide is brought out such as during the Vietnam War when Buddhist monks were self-immolating or someone semi-famous like comedian/host Ray Combs who dies by suicide, it comes into our peripheral awareness. When Curt Cobain (lost on our students) or Robin Williams suicides, our attention is focused and we are hurt and outraged for a time, then we are distracted and move on, reminded only when we see his picture in a meme about suicide.

For many of us, depression and suicide is not a reality we are dealing with. It is relatively easy to pay attention to something else.

13 Reasons Why makes us focus on the issues because our many of our kids not only are watching the show, they are loving the show. It depicts a reality we do not know or comprehend. We need to understand that.

 What the Show Got Right 

Many reviews and commentaries ignore or minimize what the show got right. Smartphones (phones that are little computers and cameras connected to the world-wide web) were not become popular until 2011. That was only 6 years ago. To put it bluntly, no one over the age of 25 has never experienced what it is like to go to high school with the social pressures that are possible with smartphones and social media apps.

  • We do not have any idea what it is like to live it
  • The show gets a lot right about teen life and that truth gets lost in the outrage shown about how the show represents suicidal ideation and its overall understanding of suicide 
  • It shows our helplessness and lack of imagination on how to solve the issues. 
  • They feel out of our control 
  • It shows the entitlement some/many males feel in relation to their connections to females 
  • The process of and possible impact of sexual assault and rape amongst teens 
  • The way peer pressure and conformity works in the real world 
  • The way kids deal with confusion differently
  • The way different kids process emotions and problems “I liked it because I could really related to it. We have people like the characters in our lives, maybe not to that extreme, but we have those people in our lives.”~Alexandra G.
  • The impotence of trying to change messed up and dysfunctional families whether it is 
    •  Alex and his inability to disagree with his dad, 
    •  Justin and the struggle with addiction, 
    •  Bryce and kids like him who are able to use money/status to get away crimes and unethical behavior 
  • The ineptitude of some adults in dealing with bullying or sexual assault.
  • It shows the social dynamics of high school more accurately than High School Musical. 
  • For those of who are old enough, you may recall a show called, “My So-Called Life” that spoke to that generation. 13 Reasons Why speaks to the current generation. 

Why This Show Is Important 

Is this a show for adults? Yes Will teens too young to watch view it? Yes Does it depict depression and suicide in a textbook way? No It is becoming/has become a cultural phenomenon and I might know why. I assert what is really bothering us is that it depicts something none/few of the adults have had experienced. Cyber bullying is something none of us have experienced while being a teenager--it is literally new. My student Alexandra said, “my mother did not understand what I was going through in middle school and why I did not want to return to school with the bullying I was getting. She thought school was still just like what we went through.” We cannot get it completely.

We need to learn to listen and to skill-build with our kids. We need to help them learn how to cope, adjust, work on, improve their skills that will enable them to positively handle their stressors. Perhaps teens understand that it is emotionally rings truer because it does not shy away from or gloss over the uncomfortable realities of being a teenager in 2017.

Is the adult reaction to this show a generational cry for help that something is wrong and we need to respond differently than how we have been? Few are comfortable with the issue with rape despite the show doing an excellent job of depicting two variations of the occurrence.

Rape is a challenging enough topic as it is, but how many teachers are comfortable discussing the issue in a room full of teenagers with a variety of viewpoints. Psychology teachers have the best opportunity to deal with this if that take up the challenge. Seek out experts to come to class. Listen to student questions. Keep a list--bring back important ones for future semesters. It is the least we can do. We must listen to our kids. They love this show because it is a close approximation of what their lives can be like. That should be our main concern. They are crying out for help--will we listen?

This is a golden opportunity to listen to and understand this generation of kids. They like the show not because of how it portrays suicide or depression, but the other issues of the show. This is what kids are living with as teenagers. A complex world that's infinitely unfair. A world that values the wrong things.

The show portrayed the counselor as one who did not know how to help. He could not extend a helping hand. This show presents a world in which teens reach out for help only to find they are grasping at air and a "you've gotta move on " attitude without the skills to emotionally process the events they experience.

Will we be the adults who unwittingly mimic Mr. Porter rather than someone who cares when one of our students is in pain? Who will we be? Our kids are crying out. Will we listen? Will we reach back? Will our efforts help? Will we take off our own blinders and realize that middle and high school has changed and become even more intense than even ten years ago? How will we react once we truly understand this?

 What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say. -Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Each person has their own set of schemas about how the world is supposed to be. What have we filtered out in the discussion of this show. Yes, revenge fantasies for teens are not helpful. But why are they so satisfying? They help give a sense of justice in a world turned upside down in which we don't see each other's private pain but only the facades we present to the world.

We need to teach kids how to see through the portrayals and see the truth while also showing that bad things happen to good people and that life is not always just.

Clay is that kid who is trying to figure things out and trying to seek justice and get people to see the truth. He is impatient and sometimes too quick to judge without knowing all the facts. He is intense and with misdirected guilt and frustration and anger at how life is so unfair. It feels like no one understands him and his friends and he is confused about others as well. At least he is trying to find out what really happened. He was putting the pieces of the puzzle together. Given the right tools, he would make an amazing ally to friends in need.

 Actions to Take 

  • Decide what kinds of adults we are going to be--judgmental or helpful 
  • Listen to our kids 
  • Ask them their perceptions about things
  • Learn more about our kids today 
  • Learn more about depression and suicide 
  • Listen to the cries for help 
  • Get ourselves into the right headspace 
  • Learn what options and choices kids have regarding bullying, rape, sexual assault, depression, etc. 
  • Start dealing with challenging issues directly rather than tangentially or not at all. 
  • Give kids real options for action and not just slogans and posters 
  • Make social and emotional skills a higher priority in schools 
  • Make mental health a priority in schools and communities

posted by Chuck Schallhorn