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Wow! I'm continually amazed that three behaviors essential to academic success are rarely mentioned, anywhere (except at Brainsarefun of course). They are:

  1. Starting on time ("You started on time, you earned…")
  2. Staying on task ("You stayed on task, you earned…")
  3. Completing assignments ("You finished on time and turned in what you agreed, you earned double…")

Good news, I see that these behaviors are validated (again) in the January 19, 2013 issue of The Economist (page 81) in a review of a new book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough, a journalist and former editor of the New York Times Magazine.

As you and l know, brains are rarely the problem. The problem is almost always poorly taught behaviors and skills. "Hey, no one ever taught me how to read." "Hey. I was always yelled at for being late. No one ever taught me how to start on time."

I'm reminded of when my boys were younger (God bless them). "Don't slam the door," I'd yell as they raced through the house. Finally I got a clue and showed them how to close the door "quietly." They did a much better job after that of not tearing the door off its hinges. Why? Because they weren't just yelled at about what not to do, they were taught what "to do," and how to do it. This was an important lesson for me. I stopped lecturing, "Do better in school. Graduate from college." I started teaching skills and behaviors.

I always imagine that all those scientists and engineers that President Obama talks about actually show up on time and can read and do math.

After decades of failing efforts to save the academic lives of struggling students, I'm really happy to see some schools and parents teaching these fundamental behaviors – hard as they may be to execute sometimes. Leaning into them may be difficult, but required. For some excellent tips on "Leaning In…" may I recommend this by Aaron Swartz, computer activist:

Thanks and let me know how I can help.

Rory Donaldson

I flood kids with reading, math and study-skill success.