by Shimmy Mandelbaum (’16)

Bright-Minds-Poor-Grades-Whitley-Michael-D-9780399527050On Thursday night, Dr. Michael D. Whitley, renowned psychologist and author of “Bright Minds, Poor Grades” came to MTA and addressed both the faculty and parents of the student body about what makes one an underachiever. Both programs took placed in the newly renovated lecture hall, room 404. At both the faculty and parent programs, Dr. Taylor introduced Dr. Whitley to the crowd and explained how the MTA education has benefited from Dr. Whitley’s research ever since Mr. and Mrs. Andy and Nancy Neff, former MTA parents brought Dr. Whitley’s book to his attention.

“Bright Minds, Poor Grades” plumbs down to the depths of kids’ educational difficulties. The book explains how to transform a child with average grades to one with above average grades and explains that an underachiever is a bright person who isn’t doing as well in business or school as he is capable of. Dr. Whitley said that “sometimes this can be caused by conditions such as ADD or hyperactivity, when they can accomplish what they are told, but chose not to.” He later went on to discuss underachievers’ attitudes towards work, which would frequently lead to things such as blaming failure on the teachers, or claiming that an assignment was handed in when it really was not, until reaching a point where they believe that their “little white lie” is actually the truth.

2013-04-25 18.10.24In his speech, Dr. Whitley spoke of the “Underlying Skill Sets to Achievement.” The first skill set is independence, meaning that a person will independently work on an assignment without the supervision or assistance of others. This is as opposed to false independence, when one only is working on an assignment for a reward (other than the good grade) or because he is being observed. Dr. Whitley stressed how crucial it is that this skill be acquired at a young age and that it stays preserved throughout one’s life; he also mentioned that parents should not assist their children too frequently with work, for that may slowly lessen a child’s courage and independence.

The second skill is self-control. Dr. Whitley introduced this topic by discussing an experiment involving a marshmallow and 4-5 year old children. The experiment went as follows: children had marshmallows placed in front of them (one per chile) and were told that if they waited 15 minutes without eating their marshmallow, they would be awarded a second marshmallow. The children who waited were categorized as “waiters” and those who didn’t were categorized as “grabbers.” On average, as they grew up, the “waiters” were more successful in school and scored approximately 200 points higher on the SAT’s than the “grabbers,” who were shown to have had anger management issues, difficulty socializing, and did not do as well in school.

2013-04-25 19.07.54The third skill is responsibility. People with responsibility issues typically will try blaming a fault or failure at something on a teacher or co-worker. He suggested that youngsters be empowered to take responsibilities upon themselves, set their own study schedules, and develop their own plans for success with the understanding that if they fail to follow through, they will have to do their work as per their parents directives and not their own, something most teens do not want.

The event came to a conclusion after Dr. Whitley discussed the habits and behaviors of both achievers and underachievers, while mentioning experiences he has shared with both, and then entertained questions from the crowd. Special thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Neff for graciously sponsoring the event.

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