Tag Archives: Embarrassment And the Emotional Underlife of Learning

Confronting Shame In The Math Classroom

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In his latest book, Embarrassment, And The Emotional Undelife of Learning, Tom Newkirk digs into the roots of what inhibits us as learners in and out of the classroom and offers strategies and practices that help kids and teachers alike develop a more resilient approach to embarrassment. Tom says "I contend that if we can take on a topic like embarrassment and shame, we can come to a richer, more honest, more enabling sense of who we are and what we can do." The following is adapted from Tom's chapter on shame in the math classroom.

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When I mentioned the title of the chapter, “Math Shame,” to a fellow editor, she replied, “Actually I feel no shame at all. I’m just not good at math and I’m fine with that.”

 

There is probably no other required subject area, that we so regularly divide into the haves and have-nots—the ones good at math and then the rest of us. Math class is the motherland of the fixed mindset. For most of us, math never becomes a language, something that we can be fluent in. I suspect that for proficient math students equations must feel like sentences, as if there is a ready and seemingly natural syntax at their disposal.

Students may feel anxiety when the dial is turned to pure mathematical formulation too soon. And it occurs when the goal, always, is getting the exact right answer— when a good approximation will do.

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Embarrassment And the Emotional Underlife of Learning By Tom Newkirk

Embarrassment by Tom NewkirkOn today’s Heinemann podcast: Embarrassment. 

We’ve all been there. In the dead of night, lying awake, replaying that one moment over and over again in our minds. The daily mistakes we make, both large and small, are part of what make us human, and yet, are often impossible to forgive ourselves for. In his new book, Embarrassment, Tom Newkirk writes, "We perform for ourselves, often the harshest of audiences.”  But how does embarrassment affect our professional lives as teachers, and how does it affect students?  Tom would argue that it is the true enemy of learning, keeping teachers and students alike silent, hesitant, and afraid. So how do we get past our anxiety, our panic, and defensiveness and become more generous to ourselves? How do we teach our students to take the risk of asking for help, or just to raise their hand in the classroom? 

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