Professional Development

Ideas from Scholastic Instructor magazine. Share them with your teachers.

Surprising new studies show that privileged adolescents are more likely than any other socioeconomic group to suffer from depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse. What’s going on? Instructor sat down with Madeline Levine, a Marin County, California, clinical psychologist of 25 years and author of the new book The Price of Privilege (HarperCollins). Here are some highlights:

Have upper-middle-class parents lost their way?  

Some parents—certainly not all—have come to approach raising kids almost as a business endeavor, rather than an endeavor of the heart. In trying to build a successful, irreproachable family, they pour time, attention, and money into insuring their kids’ performance, consistently making it to the soccer game while inconsistently making it to the dinner table.

Why is over-involvement so harmful to kids?

I’m sure teachers will recognize this. Parents who persistently fall on the side of intervening for their child—as opposed to supporting their child’s attempts to problem-solve—interfere with the most important task of childhood and adolescence: the development of a sense of self.

How can teachers deal with so-called helicopter parents?

I think every parent is trying to do the best for their child. And the challenge is when parents are so anxious and obnoxious that it makes you angry. Meet these parents with compassion and talk to them in a quiet way. It’s tough when teachers are asked to be therapists. Your response should be something like, “It seems you’re really, really worried,” and leave it at that.

How can we help excite disaffected kids about learning?

I’d love to see less grading. In the best possible world, kids would write and do projects and discuss their work as a class. Grades teach kids to be performers. If you are going to grade anything, grade effort and improvement.