How to Develop Mindsets for Compassion and Caring in Students

Early in his career Dr. Robert Brooks became the principal of a school in a locked-door unit at McLean Psychiatric Hospital. He and his staff of teachers worked with children and adolescents who were severely disturbed and whose behavior showed their turmoil. Within the first few months, Brooks felt demoralized and dreaded work each day.

“I had a very negative mindset,” Brooks said at a Learning and the Brain conference on mindsets in San Francisco. Brooks is now a psychologist on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is the author of over a dozen books, including Raising Resilient Children. He has spent his career researching how to help develop resilience in children and adults, working extensively with educators in many contexts.

Brooks’ experiences at McLean gave him insight and empathy for how difficult teaching can be, especially when students don’t outwardly appear to want to learn. When faced with so many challenging students, he felt like nothing he or his staff did would make a difference for how much kids learned or their behavior. He began to feel that when they were released from the hospital they would likely end up on drugs, in jail or dead. Read more...