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To Guarantee a Successful Year-Start at the End! August 18, 2017 07:17

It’s a new school year and an opportunity for students to get a fresh start. Now is the time to decide what they want to accomplish this year. 

The best way to have a good year is to start at the end. This may sound odd, but I am a firm believer in creating a clear picture of what one wants to accomplish and the specific reasons as to why. 

I ask students to write what they would like to see on their report cards at the end of the semester. Some of the comments might be, “Susan was an active participant in the class,” or “Jane never gave up and when things got hard, she eagerly asked for support.” I focus on the behaviors they might exhibit rather than on grades.

If students initially focus on the grade, I ask them to define the behaviors or actions to demonstrate in order to achieve the desired grade. It is helpful to coach students with some of the following statements:

To get an “A” I will need to:

  1. Listen intently in class.
  2. Pay attention to what the teacher writes on the board.
  3. Remember to ask for material I miss when I am ill or out of class.
  4. Preview chapters and form questions about what I think I will learn.
  5. Read the questions first on all assignments before reading the material and before the concept is being taught. This will allow me to focus better on the things I need to learn.
  6. Read written work aloud several times to both proofread and check that it makes sense.
  7. Ask for clarification to be sure I understand the teacher’s instructions. 
  8. Make note cards to use for studying and review material regularly.
  9. Ask questions when I am unsure of what the teacher is explaining.
  10. Pay attention to homework assignments when I enter the classroom, so I know what I am expected to complete after school. Plan to get started during recess, if I have a lot to do after school. 
  11. Pre-read homework assignments to see what I do not know and ask questions before I leave class. 
  12. Do nightly homework and turn on time.
  13. Check over graded work and find out why I missed problems.
  14. Have someone quiz me before tests, so I am sure I understand the material.
  15. Use only positive comments when thinking or speaking about my abilities.
  16. When I do not do as well as I expect, I immediately make an appointment with the teacher to ask for strategies to improve. 
  17. Write reasons I made mistakes on my corrected work.
  18. Review all tests for information to check to see if there were possibly errors in correction and to find out what I didn’t know.
  19. {Made a separate item.} When studying for a semester or year exam, I will make sure to determine the correct answers and make note cards for review.
  20. Use the teacher’s office hours to discuss my progress.
  21. Keep a running record of my grades so I know where I stand at all times. 

I ask students to visualize themselves opening their report card at the end of the semester and reading all the wonderful comments and seeing the desired grades. I want them to tap into the wonderful feeling they get when they achieve what they have planned. Tapping into that feeling is a crucial step towards insuring they stay on task. 

Then they are to type up a copy of their goals to review each morning when they are brushing their teeth. It can be posted on the bathroom mirror as a constant reminder of the things they need to do daily to achieve their goals. 

All students can benefit from using the list provided above, however, high school and college students often have to take classes they don’t want to take to meet a school requirement. There has to be a reward in it for them in order to create the desire to make it through the class. I ask them to list three reasons they are taking the class and three ways it benefits them.

Examples:

I am taking counseling in order to get a clearer picture of what I want to do for a career. Then I will know what classes to take, and understand the way I learn, and school will be easier for me.

I am taking photography to learn new skills because I love taking pictures. It will give me personal satisfaction, and I can learn about career options related to photography. 

I am taking anthropology because I need to improve my grade, and taking it again give me a better chance of getting into a four-year college.

It will also allow me to try out my new study strategies, because I think they will help to improve my grade.

With an image of the end of the semester clearly in their minds, students will find it much easier to achieve their goals. 


Cheating: Cause and Cure October 31, 2014 06:49

Cheating can be a sign a student is stuck. Having high expectation for oneself can lead a student to resort to cheating. Many times these students are penalized, this does not change  their situation.  They are often labeled bad students.

Why?

Because they have not been taught to recognize what it feels like to be stuck and then how to get unstuck. 

Stephanie was working on math concepts and asked to go to the bathroom. After returning ten minutes later, she resumed her attempt at solving a few problems. Five minutes later, her peer informed me she was cheating.  

Her sudden desire to go to the restroom was the first sign of a struggle. The first sign of the stress response is to flea.  In nature, the first thing that animals do for a quick get-away is to eliminate any waste that could slow them down.  We are no different. When we feel stressed for any reason, it is natural to suddenly have to use the bathroom. So, when a student suddenly has to use the bathroom, it could be due to the fight or flight response because they are lost, confused, don't know how to get started, or are afraid the teacher will get mad at them.

Cure:  

1. Students must understand that it is okay to not know how to do what the teacher just taught.  Reassuring them that their questions about what is confusing helps the teacher be more effective in teaching them. Being bright is not going to save them from experiencing "not knowing."

2. Students must over-come the fear of asking questions. There is a belief that questions will make them look dumb in front of their peers. My video will help them see the value of their questions and them overcome this common fear. Please have them watch it.

3.  As soon as students feel like it's time to visit the bathroom, have them ask themselves, "Am I stuck. Do I need to ask a question?" Then have them determine the exact part of the question that is confusing.

4. Help them realize that cheating means they feel they shouldn't struggle.  Tenacity is the one characteristic that sets one researcher who can cure a terminal disease apart from another researcher who falls short. Struggle is the one thing that will cement a concept.  Working through the challenge gives a good feel of accomplishment that prevents dendrites from pruning. 

5. Teachers will want to remind themselves that if a student cheats, they don't know another way of overcoming an obstacle. They simple need another way of handling the challenge.  This requires trying different things until a strategy is found that works. 


Communication of One's Needs Creates Winners January 5, 2014 19:05

In July I shared the story of a graduate student who was experiencing some anxiety about the physiology class he was going to be taking. He had heard horrible things about the professor. The common belief was that the professor expected everyone to know everything from the perquisite class. However, for many of the students, it could have been as much as two years prior to taking his class.

I encouraged him to send off an email to the professor stating that he wanted to be prepared for the class and since it had been eighteen months since he took the prerequisite class, he planned on reviewing the material and wanted to be sure that would prepare him for the class. He was surprised to receive a friendly email in which the professor mentioned he would like the student to introduce himself the first day so he could put a face with a name. His perception of this professor changed immediately.

I ran into this student after not seeing him for several months. I inquired about his experience with the professor, and his response was very positive. He said that the professor made sure that he understood every concept in class before he moved on to a new topic. This eliminated the need for tutoring. He ended up with an 89.7% in the class. Since he developed a relationship with the professor, he was able to convince him to bump his grade up .3% to earn an “A,”

He wished he had known this information when he was a freshman and has encouraged me to share it with more students.