Shelter From the Storm

"When you think of Harvard and Yale and all those great universities, they need to have the person already made to go there." Ms. Reifler

I have a complicated relationship with school. It was the only constant in my life growing up in east Los Angeles, but it wasn't always a safe haven. It definitely shaped the beliefs I had about myself and not necessarily in a good way. When I started Stanford I was not prepared - emotionally. In short, I wasn't capable of taking full advantage of a fine institution.

Interestingly, I've come to learn that I was not alone. Many college students lack important soft skills, but no one seems to want to teach these to adults. We're expected to figure it out on our own - often the hard way.

It's something that saddens me to this day. Because it's only now, after years of working on myself, that I finally feel capable of learning.



That old song, "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive" is taking on new meaning. Research out of Stanford highlights the effects of connecting with a student's values. Specifically: "Seventh graders were asked to reflect and write about things most important to them –– their relationships with friends or family, or their personal interests. The task was given at critical moments: the beginning of the school year, prior to tests, and near the holiday season, a period of stress for many people with challenging home environments. The results were dramatic: The intervention reduced the racial achievement gap by nearly 30%."

The key was reducing the sense of threat that many students of color and even women in male-dominated fields feel. More evidence, it seems to me, that until we address the emotional health of students, we can't hope to bridge the education and achievement gap.