"Psychologizing" the Classroom

grit photo

grit photo

"Psychologizing," or taking the psychological point of view, is helpful in domestic policy and in the classroom. Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, is interviewed in the podcast from "This American Life" that I recommended last week. He's also mentioned in a recent New York times op ed by David Brooks. I haven't read Tough's book yet, but the things that are being said about it are interesting and well worth considering.

I applaud what Brooks calls "the psychologizing of domestic policy," as I know how fundamental psychic structure is to all behavior and relationships, whether at home, in school, in Congress, in the board room, or in negotiations between countries. We are structured to behave the way we behave, and early trauma, as Brooks (and Tough) point out, can affect that behavior into and through adulthood. Attention to students' psychic structures -- to the ways they relate to each other, to teachers, and to content -- is absolutely critical to helping them learn and grow.

But teachers deserve and need that attention, too. Some teachers have experienced childhood trauma. Some teachers struggle with dysfunction, addiction, mental illness. Virtually all teachers, at one time or another, are weighed down by stress. That is, teachers are human, too.

So attention to teachers' psychic structures -- to the ways they relate to each other, to students, to parents, to content -- is also absolutely critical if they are going to be able to help students learn and grow.

Absolutely: Let's support students in overcoming the psychological obstacles that keep them from succeeding in school and later in life. And, because this work can be difficult and draining, let's support teachers in supporting their students. Let's psychologize the classroom.