Now that we see the problem, what are the next steps forward?

From At What Cost: Defending Adolescent Development in Fiercely Competitive Schools by Dr. David Gleason:

“At the same time that administrators and teachers in highly competitive schools feel deeply committed to educating their students in healthy, safe and balanced ways, to challenging their students with an appropriate level of rigor,  and to meeting their students where they are, these same educators also admit to overscheduling, overworking, and, at times, overwhelming their students. What is driving this bind? These educators openly admit to underlying anxieties and fears of their own. As they state: If we didn’t overschedule our students; if we didn’t assign all that homework; and if we didn’t over-focus on the college admissions process, then we would be perceived as ‘intellectually soft’; then our students ‘wouldn’t be admitted to selective colleges’; our ‘reputation as a quality school would suffer’; and we would ‘risk under-enrollment and possible school closure’.”

With the help of professionals like Dr. Gleason, we have identified a serious problem in adolescent learning, especially in highly competitive schools. NSRF and Dr. Gleason are collaborating to help educators and administrators seek out their own responses to this situation. In focused, one- or two-day workshops, school professionals will (1) begin to dislodge themselves from this “bind” they fully acknowledge, and (2) begin to generate specific plans and “next steps” for becoming a more “developmentally empathic” school. These intense workshops may be scheduled on-site at your school, making them personalized and community-based. Facilitated by NSRF director Michele Mattoon, and the founder and director of Developmental Empathy LLC and author of At What Cost: Defending Adolescent Development in Fiercely Competitive Schools, Dr. David Gleason.

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Educators in competitive schools all over the world feel trapped in this bind, and they unwittingly maintain unhealthy school cultures in which their students bear the cost. Too frequently, the students (who are highly vulnerable in their still-developing status), are overscheduled, overworked, and therefore, overwhelmed by increasing feelings of stress and pressure.  These feelings can lead to incapacitating levels of anxiety and depression, and to various manifestations of those emotional conditions: substance abuse, eating disorders, cutting and other forms of self-injury, and all too often, suicide.

So, now what?  How can educators (administrators and teachers) begin to make changes that reflect their primary commitments to “educate their students in healthy, safe and balance ways,” while simultaneously not risking their schools’ reputations, or their “brand” as high quality schools that help students get admitted to similar “high quality” colleges?

NSRF and Dr. Gleason developed the “Now What” workshop to help participants collaborate in identifying specific practices that contribute to their students’ ongoing struggles, and identify concrete and effective ways of changing those practices. The result is a plan to help the schools (1) reclaim their primary commitments to educate their students in healthy, safe and balanced ways, and (2) simultaneously create healthier school cultures that respect the developmental integrity of their students.

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“Now What?” workshops can be scheduled for one or two days. If you’d like to discuss the possibility of NSRF and Dr. Gleason to come to your school for a workshop, please email For more information, read Dr. Gleason’s article “A New Partnership to Make Developmental Changes Adolescents Need.” Learn even more about David Gleason’s work on NBC News in Boston and in an interview on From My Angle.

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