The Disintegrating Student: How Education is Failing Our Kids
October 5, 2021
The Disintegrating Student: How Education is Failing Our Kids with Dr. Jeannine Jannot

Students are not data points, but that’s exactly what they look like in the traditional public school setting. Because it’s not the teachers making decisions about what happens in the classroom; it’s legislators and curriculum companies and lobbyists.

On this episode of the podcast, I’m talking with Jeannine Jannot about “disintegrating students,” those kids who feel lost and unmotivated because school just isn’t fun anymore. And though some kids might be high-achieving, they’re simply not learning at all.

Our children are looking at cheating as a viable option to getting by, and our teachers are handcuffed by state testing. Rather than looking at childhood development and what’s best for our children, we’re rooted in achievement culture and checking off boxes.

It’s got to stop, and we’re hoping that conversations like this are a step in the right direction.


About Jeannine Jannot:

Dr. Jeannine Jannot is an academic coach and the author of The Disintegrating Student: Struggling But Smart, Falling Apart, and How To Turn It Around. She has over 25 years of experience working with children, teens, and young adults in both public and private school settings.

Jeannine has a master’s degree in school psychology from Ohio State University and a doctorate in child and developmental psychology from the University of Connecticut. She began teaching college psychology courses in 2010, and in 2014 she founded The Balanced Student.

Originally from Ohio, Jeannine lives in Milton, Georgia with her husband, Tom. They have three children, Ryan, Maddie, and Kat. You can learn more about her at


Jump in the Conversation:

  • [2:01] Jeannine’s story of school transformation
  • [4:28] What are “disintegrating students” – usually high achieving, never studied, still got good grades
  • [5:33] What is the cost of teaching kids to do well in school
  • [6:20] Takeaways from Disintegrating Students book
  • [8:22] Big concerns in achievement culture
  • [10:33] How people (kids too!) are responding to achievement culture
  • [13:28] Cheating as a strategy
  • [16:14] Colleges are disappointed but getting exactly what they asked for
  • [16:28] Top-down education and why it doesn’t work
  • [20:12] Normalize a new type of learning–and failing
  • [23:59] How to talk to your child
  • [30:28] Turbo Time
  • [33:37] Three things we need for motivation
  • [34:46] Jeannine’s Magic Wand
  • [37:11] Maureen’s takeaways


Links & Resources:

Thanks for listening! Don’t forget to subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Android. If you like what you heard, please leave a review on iTunes and share what you liked about the show.



Maureen O’Shaughnessy  0:03  

Hello fellow parents and educators. Thank you for joining me at Education Evolution, where we are disrupting the status quo in today’s learning models. We talk about present day education, what’s broken, who’s fixing it, and how. I’m Dr. Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your host and founder of education evolution, micro school coalition, and co founder of active, I consult and train with schools and leaders who are fiercely Committed to changing the narrative, reimagining the education landscape, and creating learning that serves all children and prepares them to thrive. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  0:49  

If you are new, welcome to the podcast. Please subscribe on our website to get it delivered to your inbox weekly. If you’ve been around a while, have you left a review?


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  1:08  

Hello, Jeannine, it is so good to have you.


Jeannine Jannot  1:11  

Good morning. Thank you for having me. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  1:13  

Absolutely. And listeners. Today I’m chatting with Dr. Jeannine Jannot. Jeannine is a school psychologist, college professor, school volunteer and parent of three. Seeing firsthand that many students lack some of the critical skills they need for academic success, she founded the Balanced Student Program. Then she went on to write The Disintegrating Student about our high stakes high pressure achievement culture. So let’s hear more about Jeannine’s research program and book. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  1:47  

Jeannine, first question. We’re all about education evolution. Our schools must evolve to serve all learners. Our culture must evolve. So where did your story of helping with school transformation begin?


Jeannine Jannot  2:02  

So it’s really interesting because it wasn’t something I intentionally sought out to do. So my background is I have a master’s in school psychology and a doctorate in child and developmental psychology. But basically, when I got done with my PhD, I had my first child I kind of moved around a bit. And I spent, you know, over a decade really raising my kids. And being that mom, PTA, playgroup, coordinator, newsletter, person, all that stuff. 


Jeannine Jannot  2:32  

It wasn’t until my youngest was in preschool that I was offered a job to teach preschool. And so I did that just kind of for fun, and my daughter was there. And then she went to elementary school, and I ended up taking a job teaching college, freshman seminar classes and psychology classes. And at that time, my youngest was an elementary, my middle child was in middle school, and my oldest was in high school. And here I was teaching college after coming off teaching preschool.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  3:01  



Jeannine Jannot  3:02  

I know I so I had this like, unbelievable bird’s eye view of what our education system was looking like and how it was impacting our students across the developmental spectrum. And I was stunned. I mean, I was really taken aback, particularly when I was working with those college students and looking at Well, this is the end product. These are some really seriously stressed out kids with not a lot of strategies and skills at their disposal. 


Jeannine Jannot  3:31  

And, you know, one of the other things I noticed I was teaching intro psych. At the time, many of my students had come out of high school, having taken AP psych, and didn’t remember anything. They had like nothing that they’re bringing to the table after taking an entire year of Advanced Placement psychology. And I thought, well, what are we doing, and then just seeing the anxiety, my own children and their friends, and this particularly in the height, all my kids were identified, gifted at some point in their education. And so they were surrounded by a lot of very high achieving kids themselves. 


Jeannine Jannot  4:08  

And it was, it was just quite the eye opening experiences, all I can say and that led me to think well, what can I do for students and so that’s where the balanced student came from, I decided I would just coach these kids, I would try to figure out, you know, get at the root of what’s going on with them, and then try to give them this strategies and skills that they were lacking. 


Jeannine Jannot  4:29  

And out of that came the book, which I never intended to write a book, but I kept seeing the same kind of student over and over again, what I ended up pointing the disintegrating students. These were really really high achieving kids who, you know, usually Elementary, even Middle School, you know, they would show up, basically learn whatever the teacher was saying, get their homework done in school or on the bus, never really study for tests and still get really good grades, and at some point, these kids were hitting what I call rigor tipping point. And it’s like hitting the wall. 


Jeannine Jannot  5:06  

All of a sudden, they’re starting to get this feedback that maybe they’re not as smart as they thought they were. So the grades start being inconsistent, maybe they start throwing a few C’s in there, start not handing stuff in. And everything really starts to fall apart for these kids. And so that’s why I wrote the book because I was trying to put all the puzzle pieces together of what is happening to our students.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  5:32  

Wow. I what you’re saying has such an impact. I remember, many years ago, the High Tech High documentary most likely to succeed, talked about this short term memorization, amazing AP scores. And then the following fall, the kids would fail the same test that we’ve taught kids how to memorize and how to do school well, but at what cost? It sounds like disintegrating. I mean, that word just makes me cringe. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  6:02  

The rest of the subtitle of the book struggling but smart, falling apart, and how to turn it around. Wow. So sneak preview, what would be what would be a takeaway when people get your book. 


Jeannine Jannot  6:21  

So there’s probably a little too TMI in the book as far as me as a parent, because again, I, I’m in what I call this achievement culture, I raised my kids in it. And I think the takeaway, the big takeaway is that it’s not helpful to play a blame game, which I’ve, I’ve been sucked down that hole so many times looking for somebody to blame for, you know, what goes on in our schools and stuff. 


Jeannine Jannot  6:48  

But everybody working in education, I think, is very well intentioned. I mean, nobody wakes up and says, Let’s make our children miserable. Let’s, you know, let’s stay here learning and curiosity. That’s not our intent. But really, that is the end result of what’s going on today. 


Jeannine Jannot  7:05  

So I look at the cultural influences from educational policy, to you know, changes in parenting over you know, the past three decades, I look at individual differences in students I look at sleep, I look at, you know, the impact of tech in our kids lives and how that’s an a really important thing is developmental, I’m from my background in developmental child developmental psychology, I’m very interested in understanding the changes in the brain development. 


Jeannine Jannot  7:35  

And there’s, there’s so much to understand, particularly as our kids hit this tween and teen years around puberty, we all need to be so much more informed about what’s going on in their brains and, and providing instruction to them at a developmentally appropriate level, and in a developmentally appropriate manner, which we have totally gotten away from.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  7:58  

Absolutely right. Sit and get learning is never effective, and especially our tweens who are needing so much more and movement and social interaction and hands on. So what would you say is your Is there like a number one concern with what we’re doing in this achievement culture?


Jeannine Jannot  8:22  

So I think to understand the achievement culture, you know, it’s been around probably, since I graduate high school, early 80s, I think is when it really started, all the forces started to kind of come together for this perfect storm of getting us to where we are and how I defined the achievement culture is, it’s the success in our achievement. Culture is defined by data. So it’s very data driven, and our students consider themselves data points. And how that’s translating is into this check the box mentality of I just need the next grade. 


Jeannine Jannot  8:57  

So I understand what I need to get, you know, into this next math class. So I need to get these grades do these things. I know what I need to do to get into the college. So I’m going to check all the boxes take all the APS I need, get this score on the LSAT, AC t. b, this class rank, if they’re in high school that still does that it’s check the box, check the box, check the box. 


Jeannine Jannot  9:20  

And where that leaves learning is just out of the picture. The students will tell me no, I don’t really care about this class. I don’t care about learning this, I just need to get the A. And so when we’re we’re fueling our education with test scores and rankings.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  9:39  

Ouch. That is so painful. I just think of us as adults. I would not spend an hour a day learning car mechanics or an hour a day learning tax law. You know, I’m not going to do stuff just because I want to do stuff because it interests me or I’m good at it. So we’re tormenting kids at such an important developmental level? 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  10:06  

Disintegrating. That word is so powerful. And it’s so apt. Wow,


Jeannine Jannot  10:13  

I knew I was onto something with the title of that book because students know exactly what the book is about when they see the title.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  10:21  

And it’s visceral. When you say that. I not only know it, but I get this, this lump in my stomach. It’s Yeah, and if I can picture it completely, too. I wonder, how do you see teachers, parents, students, how are people responding to this achievement culture? It seems like we would say, No, we will not have our kids be widgets, checking off boxes and losing their Spark.


Jeannine Jannot  10:51  

Yeah, the ideally, that’s what we’d be doing. But the fact is, we’re all in the culture, which makes it so hard, like we can all kind of talk the talk about this, like it makes sense. But walking the walk an, because the culture is something that’s impacting us all the time in a way that we’re not necessarily even aware of. So it’s the you know, it’s our assumptions about how things go. It’s how we behave, it’s how we think about something, it’s the traditions that get passed on generation after generation. So that’s a big thing to consciously push back on. 


Jeannine Jannot  11:24  

But I do think you know, now that we’re having the conversation about it in lots of different forms, and you’re certainly out there having this conversation in lots of ways. That’s how we start making a difference. But how it’s translating is to our teachers and our students, and even to parents, you know, within the family, his mental health, the decrease in mental health, the increases in anxiety, depression, suicidality, eating disorders, all those things we’re seeing in our student population, that is coming out of years and years and years of being entrenched in this achievement culture. You I mean, you even see it in the way students are students. 


Jeannine Jannot  12:05  

So when I was a student, cheating was kind of a big deal. There’s certainly nothing you wanted to admit to doing it, it didn’t seem to happen that often. And if he did, everybody knew about it. In today’s culture with students, cheating is just a strategy. It’s very well accepted. And there are variations, there’s levels of cheating. So some students will cheat on homework assignments, and, you know, that kind of stuff, but they won’t necessarily cheat on a high stakes test. 


Jeannine Jannot  12:32  

And the reason I’ve tried to get to the bottom of why, why, why you guys cheating. And what I’ve gotten from students is, it makes checking the box a lot easier and faster. And I’m trying to help my friend out, because they see their friends, so stressed or in bad places. And it’s like, you know, they don’t need to be worrying about, you know, their parents being on their back about this grade. 


Jeannine Jannot  12:53  

So, I mean, I really, I think this is where we are. And we’re also sending students to school in a bad psychological state. So when we’re in kind of that fight or flight stress mode, our thinking brain is not online. And so if our students are coming to school, and they’re high anxiety, they’re not good thinkers, their brain is not in a place to absorb information. So, you know, it’s just kind of bad all the way around. When you think about sort of the typical day to day, garden variety education our kids are being exposed to.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  13:28  

Yes, and I can’t help but sympathize. I remember, my daughters are young adults. Now I remember, my one daughter took a semester of online her ninth grade year and was nailing it straight A’s. And I went down and just said, Show me what you’re doing. How is this? And she was like, not she wasn’t embarrassed. It was just like, I just cut and paste the question into the search engine. And online, there are answers to all these questions, because so many other people have asked them, I cut and paste answers, and I get it right, I move on. And it’s like, oh, my gosh, we are so not doing online again, because she’s just hacking the system. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  14:10  

But when stuff feels meaningless, like just as you say, a box to check when stuff is meaningless. I do minimal effort on routine things. It’s just like, Okay, get the gas in the tank, get the groceries bought, I don’t put a lot of energy in to things that don’t really light me up. So I can’t really blame kids for shortcuts, because they’re just writing papers to please a teacher. They don’t see a real world relevance and it’s not tapping into their curiosity or creativity. So I don’t want to encourage cheating, but I see why it’s happening.


Jeannine Jannot  14:46  

And you just described the entire last year virtual learning and remote learning that was strategy most students were using and teachers unders. I mean, it was just sort of the reality. So there wasn’t a lot of learning that went on last year. 


Jeannine Jannot  15:00  

But I look at it as our students, our young people are responding perfectly normally, as would be expected to a very abnormal situation. So the circumstances they’re in I again, just like you said, I would respond the same way. And I don’t think it’s fair of us to expect our children to be like, Okay, I’m excited about this, because we probably wouldn’t in the same situation.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  15:29  

Exactly. Yeah. And it seems like this would make it easier for us to all want to pull together and change education. Because I know, colleges are saying you’re sending us kids that aren’t prepared. Business is saying, you’re sending us kids that the work ethic isn’t there, they don’t know how to communicate the, you know, the soft skills, the 21st century skills aren’t there. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  15:52  

Even when kids check all these boxes off? It doesn’t really make them future ready, it doesn’t make them know who they are and what they want to do after high school. So it seems like we should all be pulling together and what would you want to see change if we were all pulling together to make this achievement culture, something more humane and more relevant.


Jeannine Jannot  16:15  

So you just made such a good point that that really illustrates the irony of the situation we’re in. So the colleges and the employers are disappointed, like, this isn’t what we wanted, yet, they’re getting exactly what they asked for. And the reason I say that is because we have been doing education top down for at least two decades, probably closer to three. Now ever since No Child Left Behind kind of came on the scene, we have deferred to politicians and corporations and money interests to dictate how education is going to look. 


Jeannine Jannot  16:52  

And that’s where we got into this, check the box data, achievement culture, and it needs to flip, it needs to completely flip this has to be grassroots bottom up. Because the people who know how to educate are the teachers, they’re the experts. And they’re the last people to be asked what we should be doing. They get program after program and policies and different practices that just keep being given to them. You know, it’s like, okay, now do this. 


Jeannine Jannot  17:22  

And I, you know, I’ve been in education is so long, and I’ve seen so many big package, you know, now it’s social emotional learning packages coming down from the big school districts into the schools and, you know, again, well intentioned trying to meet a need, but they don’t translate or transfer well into the on the ground, actual implementation. And they don’t ever go back to the students and teachers say, Is this working? And better yet, just start with them, you know, that the teachers, let them be the ones driving practice policies and programs, let’s figure out what works. And then let’s implement that on a wider scale. 


Jeannine Jannot  18:01  

Let this be driven from the family student, teacher, and of that spectrum, and then schools are responding to that, and colleges to that, and the, you know, I think, then the employers are going to be really happy with the kinds of job candidates that end up graduating college, or, or just graduating high school and coming out into the job market.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  18:22  

That makes so much sense. I have a micro school and throughout the pandemic, I’ve really been listening to the teachers, and we’ve been talking a lot and their gut is telling them, I have to let go of some of the content. Because human needs need to be addressed. These kids are so fragile, they’re so anxious, what’s going on, how long will it last? Will I get a graduation? And they knew just innately from that grassroots level that the content is going to take a backseat. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  18:55  

And that was last year. And it still is they’ve spent the first couple of weeks really creating norms and getting kids used to being back in person and that trusting our teachers is so important, but then I’m at a private school. So we don’t have to do state testing to get funding. So we really can’t say what’s working for our students. And so many teachers feel handcuffed by state testing, or Hey, you have to get through this much content every year. So we’re not really listening to the experts. And I don’t know it just seems so backwards, doesn’t it?


Jeannine Jannot  19:31  

It doesn’t the teachers are responding to the check the box data thing to because they need to have so many students in their AP class score a three or above and they have to demonstrate proficiency in ways that I would question are useful. And then our schools are doing their public schools at least are doing the same thing. They have gray cards and so you know, I’ve seen really like questionable attendance policies pushed out because that was a low score on the state, you know, grade card for that school. 


Jeannine Jannot  20:02  

So well, let’s put a policy in place that, you know, actually has nothing. It’s not in the best interest of our students, but it makes our score in attendance look better to the state. So it’s that kind of thinking that, you know, if we stay, you know, mired in that, nothing is going to improve, and we can we know how to educate kids, we can do this, we’ve just kind of lost focus, you know about what’s important, and what we need to emphasize here, what success really needs to look like we need to value learning, we need to value curiosity and resilience, and we have to normalize failing, we have to normalize failing for these kids, in our families and in our schools. 


Jeannine Jannot  20:45  

So they don’t go off into the world, these psychologically fragile, anxious human beings who are petrified to fail. And when they get that feedback, negative feedback, it kind of causes huge setbacks for them, we want to get away from that.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  21:03  

Absolutely. And that’s what I love about the design thinking model is they expect iterations and schools that are driven by that students have a choice in what projects they’re doing. But then the whole culture, but like, we get to use that model. And our teachers will say, well, that tanked. Guys, how could I do this better next time, it’s so normal like that we’re trying and our goal is to improve, it’s not to get it right the first time and, and then kids, they still don’t like it, but they see, I need to do a draft before I do a final version of this essay, because I need this feedback. I need to pay attention to the audience. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  21:42  

So this whole idea that things are works in progress, and that when you fail, it’s about what did I learned from it? And now what, what’s my next iteration? Or how am I going to change things up? And to me, that’s where the thinking happens when kids memorize, they’re not learning how to be thinkers, they’re learning how to do school, well, not how to think and do life well. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  22:04  

So this failure piece, I don’t know, I think we have fragile adults, too. I think parents don’t want to say, I’m anxious, I’m depressed, I’m worried about my kid. They’re kind of stuck on my kids been accepted at this college, or my kid made the elite soccer team. So I think parents are pretty afraid to be vulnerable. And if they’re not willing to fall, you know, to, to model failing and, and to laugh and to learn. What are they saying to their kids about failure? By their example?


Jeannine Jannot  22:35  

Well, what they’re saying, Yeah, they’re what the kids tell me is that they think their parents care more about their grades than they do them, which, of course, isn’t true. But you can see why because the majority of what we talk to our kids about, I think falls into that academic thing. And we’re offloading our anxiety that you just described, onto our kids. So they come home from school, and as I would do on the test, you know, did you turn the thing in? Did you know, did you talk to the teacher about this, and it’s, we offload all the things we’re worried about, because we care about them, we love them, we want them to be successful. 


Jeannine Jannot  23:07  

So it’s well intentioned. But then when the student gets that dumped on them, it’s even more unlikely that they’re going to feel motivated and engaged with school and the way we want them to be. So it really is a vicious circle. And again, the parents are doing that, because we’re responding to what we think the expectation is to be a good parent these days, which is to make sure your kid gets into college x. And that’s the part that needs to change. 


Jeannine Jannot  23:31  

And I get asked a lot. So what do you tell parents? How do they fix this because it’s glacially slow to change your culture, right? And even though I, I see some glimmers of hope, and I think, you know, actually, the pandemic, has, I think, helped more people, particularly parents see exactly what the educational experience is like for their child. So there’s a lot more empathy there. So I think it’s easier to have the conversation now with a kid. 


Jeannine Jannot  23:59  

So my, my suggestion to parents is sit down with your child and say, Alright, so here’s the expectations. Here’s what the culture, you know what school expects from you right now? and kind of put it on the table that there is this achievement, culture and grades are important. But in our family, how are we going to define success? Do you need a 4.0? Do you need to take eight APS? Is that how we’re defining success for you? Maybe let’s step back and say, Look, we are perfectly happy. If you are taking courses you enjoy. If you’re trying some rigor and challenging yourself, particularly in those areas you’re interested in, if you get a B, or C, the world is not going to end and we are not going to think you’re stupid and think badly of you, which is when kids get in their heads. 


Jeannine Jannot  24:47  

And so I think at the family level, it’s really about having an honest conversation. Often because we sometimes as parents say things once and our kids really need That repetition for them to believe that we are walking the walk here that we actually are okay? If they make some mistakes, if they don’t get an A in this one class or if they don’t take all the IPS, I think they need that reassurance. And I think to just laying, you know, putting it on the table like that is just so important and the place to start.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  25:21  

I love that. And I see kids not forcing themselves to burn out. I see anxiety lowering, I see family battles lowering if they’ve come to an agreement on, this is what it looks like. Or this is what we expect in the way of when you get home and do homework and, and to have it as a conversation and common expectations, creating it together. I can imagine students feeling heard, and parents feeling relieved to that together, we’re creating what works for our family.


Jeannine Jannot  25:55  

And we’re valuing the process over the product, which I think is what your whole philosophy is that process is so important. And in education today, our kids are they get the grade feedback. And that’s it. And it tells them nothing except you’re not good enough. 


Jeannine Jannot  26:12  

So it’s either an A you’re good enough, or anything else, you’re not good enough, that is the feedback they get in. And I understand teachers are in the culture where they’re not really given the opportunity to give the kind of feedback and there’s such rigidity around tests, uh, you know, the test question. So well, you can’t have the tests back to look over and figure out what you got wrong, because I’ll always start with students like, okay, so do you know why, you know, your grade wasn’t what you expect them now, I don’t know what I missed.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  26:41  

And that’s crazy.


Jeannine Jannot  26:42  

I got them all right, you know, and how do you learn?


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  26:45  

it’s such a teaching tool. I love understanding what I missed and what I messed up on because it’s like, how else am I going to learn. And I think the whole culture, I love the flipped learning model where teachers send a mini lesson home a video lesson home in advance, and then instead of lecturing, they’re moving around and working with the kids, because then they can give feedback. And then when they’re not spending a whole period lecturing, there is time to unpack tests, there’s time for conversations. But we can’t if the teacher lectures the whole period, there’s no time for processing, communication interaction. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  27:23  

So a lot of things would have to shift to add that feature. And teachers also would have to have new tests all the time, if they gave the test back, they can’t recycle that test. So for some teachers, that would mean more work, but boy, then we’d be about learning instead of scoring, memorization.


Jeannine Jannot  27:43  

Or we could just take the significance off the test that it currently holds that it’s this all knowing, you know, yes, that’s part of the problem. I’d much rather assess our kids. I mean, tests are important. But what’s more interesting is the process of learning and that project base kind of mentality where you go in and it’s like, okay, you don’t have this yet. But we’re going to keep working on it, you’re going to work at your pace, and you’re going to master this. And we do it in ways that keep the kids connected. So they can see, Oh, I know what I’m doing wrong. Oh, I see what I’m doing right. And when I do it this way, I make progress. That’s the kind of learning that leads to predominate, education. 


Jeannine Jannot  28:26  

And then have you know, the smattering of tests here and there. But that makes way more sense to me, because right now, we’re just trying to win at school. And that makes no sense. You can’t win at school. But that is the mentality, I need to win at school. Parents think that way, kids think that way. I mean, it’s the same if we woke up and thought I gotta win it like you can’t. It’s an impossible ask. So I think we just need to, again, take all the stuff we know about how to educate kids and just refocus on we know what the end goal is and how we’re measuring it as we go along.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  29:03  

Yes, yes. And the end goal is happy kids that know their strengths that know how to project manage, we really don’t need a lot of tests or memorization. And now with smartphones and information at our fingertips. We don’t have to have it all memorized in our head, but what do we do with it? And how do we apply it and what’s real world? 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  29:27  

So yes, we need to refocus on what we know. And we need the check the box culture to lighten up because if kids have to get these grades to get into these colleges and memorize all this stuff to do on tests where they can’t use their notes, you have to do the PSAT a CT where we can’t undo it at our level if they need that memorization for the next level. So it’s gotta be culture wide.


Jeannine Jannot  29:55  

Right? I agree. 100%


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  29:58  

Oh, I am so grateful that you’ve, I mean, the title of your book The unpacking. Because when you use a strong word like disintegrate, it’s like, oh, no, no, no, no, we don’t want that for our kids. And I think we have to call it like it is, and feel that discomfort to be willing to do the hard work of changing our achievement culture.


Jeannine Jannot  30:24  

I agree.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  30:26  

Well, Jeannine, I’m going to pivot because I think it’s really important on our show, to also get to know the person behind the book and the program and the research. So I’d love to ask you some turbo time questions. 


Jeannine Jannot  30:40  

Oh, sure. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  30:41  

Okay, these are kind of rapid fire. First one. What’s the last book you read? 


Jeannine Jannot  30:50  

Ah, well, it’s an audio book. So I listened to it. What happened to you by Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Bruce Perry. Fantastic.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  30:59  

I am a big fan of audiobooks.


Jeannine Jannot  31:02  

Me too. I love to walk and listen.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  31:04  

Exactly. That’s how I do my nonfiction. I’ll read fiction forever. But nonfiction if I’m moving, it sticks better for some reason. How about two inspirational folks you’d love to meet. 


Jeannine Jannot  31:18  

I would love to meet Brene Brown, because I feel like she’s the person when I read daring greatly. A lot of things in my own head clicked. And I don’t know that I’d be where I am today. If those things hadn’t clicked, I hadn’t shifted more into a growth mindset kind of adult. 


Jeannine Jannot  31:34  

So she would be fascinating to me, and weirdly enough, who I’ve always said I’d love to have lunch with is Doris Kearns Goodwin, the historian, because she’s, like, so passionate about history and presidential history. And she’s so joyful when she talks about just think she’d be so fun to hang out with. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  31:55  

Wow, I am not familiar with her. So that’s gonna be fun for me to learn about. 


Jeannine Jannot  31:59  

Yeah, she’s a hoot. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  32:02  

How about a TED talk that inspires you? 


Jeannine Jannot  32:05  

Hmm, I can’t, I cannot nail down one TED Talk. There’s I honestly and I showed lots of TED Talks when I was teaching. I think they all inspire me in some way. Yours included. I am just so grateful they exist. So I can’t pick one.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  32:22  

Fair enough. And I agree I there’s so many topics. It’s fascinating. And it’s, it’s such a cool snapshot into so many aspects of human life. I love the whole concept. 


Jeannine Jannot  32:34  

Mm hmm. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  32:36  

How about the biggest thing that you wish folks knew about achievement culture?


Jeannine Jannot  32:46  

Well I think it would be really helpful if we got back could because the end result has been these kind of unmotivated kids in the way we talked about. If we understood that in order for any of us as human beings to be motivated, we need three things we need, we need to feel like we’re in control. We need to feel competent. And we need to feel connected to what it is we’re doing. And if you think about those three things with our students, most of them don’t have right now. And so that’s why the motivation is so so low. 


Jeannine Jannot  33:17  

So I think if we all focused on control, competency and connection, we turn around pretty quickly.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  33:24  

Wow, I love those three C’s and even as adults, those are the three absolutely. Hmm, very cool. How about a pet peeve of yours?


Jeannine Jannot  33:41  

Slow walkers. It drives me crazy if I’m behind people I’m just like move. I’m not even in a hurry. I think I just walked relatively quickly.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  33:55  

Fair enough. And final one something about you that most people don’t know.


Jeannine Jannot  34:03  

Probably the thing that people are surprised about with me when you know they get to know me is that I’m a huge introvert so I’m fall way more to the introverted side of things and I have just really mastered sudo extraversion ever since I started teaching college. So I think that’s the thing is prizes. People mostly think I’m just because I do talks and all that kind of stuff. But now as soon as I get done with this, I’ll put that on my porch quietly for an hour.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  34:32  

I hear you get things like our school auction where I’m on and I love seeing everybody. The next day I just need space. 


Jeannine Jannot  34:41  

Need those breaks. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  34:43  

Uh-huh. So I like to end my podcast with a magic wand moment. So Jeannine, what you’re talking about with the disintegrating student and achievement culture is so important and if we could understand and and be willing to do something, you know, this is this is really instrumental to this whole generation of youth and their well being and the future, if we don’t have kids that are healthy and learners and curious, so if you had a magic wand, and could wish anything for today’s youth, regarding this whole piece of achievement and checking boxes, what would you wish for them?


Jeannine Jannot  35:32  

Wow, I don’t- I’d like three wishes. But if I just get one, I’ll take, I think, offering many, many, many, many more low stakes opportunities for our kids to make mistakes, and explore and play and have fun, you know, kind of make childhood a little bit more like childhood and our teens are still children. So I would love for the stakes to just be much, much lower. And for them to feel that if we could make it so they actually believe the stakes were lower. And that’s what I’d like to see most of all right now.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  36:13  

Oh, my goodness, I completely agree. Ah, breathing room and play, explore. Yeah, and remembering that they’re kids. Oh, Jeannine, your work is super important. I’m going to be putting your program, your book, your website, all of your links in the show notes. and listeners, I really encourage you to read this book and to think about your families. How can you have these conversations? And how can we support our teachers to make decisions and be the experts because this is so important for us to raise healthy, productive kids. Jeannine, thank you for your hard work and for being our guest today.


Jeannine Jannot  37:00  

Oh, thank you for having me. I really enjoyed our conversation.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  37:13  

Ah, Jeannine’s book title really does have this visceral intensity behind it. We do see way too many of our precious youth disintegrating. Our achievement culture really does have kids just trying to get the right boxes checked off. And it’s not serving them. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  37:41  

Jeannine talked about the achievement culture being success driven, data driven, and students considering themselves data points, when she said that I could feel my energy drop and sadness set in. I don’t want we don’t want our kids to see themselves as data points. To move on, we do need to trust our teachers to create it needs to be grassroots bottom up, they need to set the stage for exploration and student driven learning. We have to take the pressure off of performance and off of scores. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  38:23  

If we could shift from this product focus to process, we could give students the three things Jeannine mentioned, that we all need. In order to grow. We need control over our learning over the content, style, pace, we need to feel a sense of competence, feel like hey, I can tackle this and all have helped along the way. And we need to feel connection. Feeling like this learning matters. It has relevance in my life. I want to explore it. These three C’s are super important. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  39:06  

And then if we follow that up with Jeannine’s magic wand wish, students would get to take advantage of many low stakes opportunities. They’d have chances to make lots of mistakes to reflect on them, and to try again. We’ve all heard stories of Einstein, or Edison, and their many mistakes leading to brilliant inventions. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our schools and culture could embrace the value of mistakes and curiosity. And students would be allowed to explore and play and have fun. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  39:45  

We know when kids or humans feel safe, that’s when the best learning happens. So here’s to families and educators and policymakers shifting away from an achievement culture to one where students no longer disintegrate, but one where they thrive and are future ready. Thank you for being a part of the education evolution.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  40:24  

If you’re finding yourself thinking, I need to do this in my school, let’s talk about it. I consult and also have a book, TEDx talk, an online course to support starting learner driven schools and programs. My goal is to help schools and individuals find new innovative solutions to reaching every student. Let’s create an action plan together, visit to book a call and let’s get started. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  41:01  

Education Evolution listeners, you are the ones to ensure we create classrooms where each student is seen, heard, valued and thriving. We need you. Let’s go out and reach every student today. I’d be so grateful if you’d head over to your podcast app to give a great rating and review if you found this episode valuable. Don’t wait. Please do it right now. Before you forget. I really appreciate it. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  41:32  

Thank you listeners. Signing off. This is Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your partner in boldly reimagining education.


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