Developing the Mindset of Effective Students in MCF-Shakopee
By Dr. Schanus
I have been teaching resiliency skills at MCF-Shakopee for over four years now. During this
time period I have noticed changes in the students' attitude in class. Four years ago it would take
five or six weeks for students to warm up to each other in the classroom. I could almost count on
some sort of flair up between two students. Eye-rolling and comments made under someon's
breath were a common response to another student sharing a personal perspective, often leading
to leading to angry words shared between two students. While I have yet to call an official
"incident" and have squad intercede, there have been moments when it came close.
However, over the past two years I've been seeing students come to class already excited to be
there. Noticing this change, I've asked participants why it is they're signing up, coming to class,
and paying attention from the start. Many say they have heard good things about the class from
their friends. Others say they have heard me speak in orientation class and are excited about
learning more. Whatever their motivation for coming to class I can honestly say I don't have to
work as hard any longer to hold the attention of the class participants. You can tell they are
interested in what I am saying and how it applies to them. I have had two students tell me that as
adult learners they have never been able to make it through an entire semester of classes without
taking two "sick" and being automatically dropped from the class. They've told me that I held
their attention throughout the semester. The material was so meaningful that one student reported
that afterwards she had signed up for another class, and although the teacher was boring and the
topic not inspiring, she felt if she stuck it out (no "sick"), she would learn something.
Dr. Robert Brooks is a nationally known speaker on topics regarding resilience, motivation, and
self-esteem. He is currently on the staff of Harvard Medical School and has written numerous
books about parenting and developing resiliency in high-risk youth. I was first exposed to Dr.
Brooks' research about ten years ago, and in 2003 I met him after attending one of his
presentations. Since that time I've followed his ongoing research in the realm of resilience.
While I've been here at Shakopee, I've noticed many similarities between his research from
working with high-risk youth and my work here with the women. These similarities inspired me
to ask questions and figure out how to his research findings in developing new class materials for
the women at Shakopee.
Approximately eighteen months ago, I held a telephone interview with Dr. Brooks. I had recently
read his article, "Disciplinary Practices, Parenting Styles and the Development of Self
Discipline" (Brooks, 2006), and wanted to make certain I was correctly interpreting his materials
in light of my work in Shakopee. He, too, saw the connection between his research and the
classes I was teaching, and after our phone conversation emailed me two chapters out of a
recently published book he co-authored with Dr. Sam Goldstein, Understanding and Managing
Children's Classroom Behavior: Creating Sustainable, Resilient Classrooms (Hoboken, N.J.: J.
Wiley & Sons, c2007).
In the first chapter, "Developing the Mindset of Effective Teachers" he noted that the differing
mindset or assumptions that educators possess about themselves and their students play a
significant role in determining their expectations, teaching practices, and relationships with the
students (Brooks, 2001a,b: Brooks & Goldstein, 2001, 2003, 2004).