Your Brain!


While preparing my new online course about essay writing, I inserted a picture of a brain in the proofreading section and this got me thinking beyond the obvious connection.

In the course, I am discussing the importance of proofreading and editing one’s work.  There are many tools one can use including various spell / grammar checking software, the old-fashioned dictionary or proofreading books (yes, they still exist!), or have a friend help out. (Pick a smart friend by the way.)

The picture of a human brain is included to remind students that software does not catch all possible mistakes.  In fact, sometimes it is quite poor at helping with corrections. (Yes, even Grammarly fails miserably in many cases.)

Thinking about this made me happy!

I am happy that the best “computer” of all is still very useful, and we have it with us all the time carried in a neat little container called our head.

The brain is such an amazing organic “machine” which is somewhat analogous to a computer or mechanical device; and, yet, it is not.  It is far more than strings of 0’s and 1’s or even the finest gears.

It is true that a computer can list all kinds of facts and information, but none of it is useful without the brain.

What good is any of it without some intervention of the human intelligence?  In fact, to retrieve the list of facts, sites, and blogs took someone acting and using the ultimate “computer” in the first place.

Once the information is retrieved something needs to be done with it – connections need to be made, new networks to show relevance, explanations on application, revealing the importance either as a reminder or to explore something original, etc.

The computer will do none of that.

So, the computer and various software programs as tools are very useful and amazing, but they are not replacements for the brain or thought.

Learning is not limited to being able to Google something!

And I am very happy that it isn’t.  Perhaps one day computers will be more organic, emotional, intuitive, and capable of more complexity than they are now.  (At some point, however, do they stop being computers anyway?)

In the meantime, let’s not ignore or neglect the amazing organ we have with us for 70-100 years (how long did your last computer / device last?), working 24 / 7 and capable of constant improvement.

Use the tools available – yes!

Always use them; however, with the intent to add to, expand, and improve the best “computer” ever – YOU!

Ron Johnson

Skype:  tutoringcentral

Free Live Online Class – Writing in English!


The course is up and running, but here is an opportunity to attend a free live online lesson!

Writing in English

Come join me on May 21 at 7:30 pm (EDT).  Even if you cannot attend live, join, and you will have lifetime access to the recording of the live class.

Of course, I would love to see you!

Free live class:

Writing in English course:

You can start this course at any time and complete at your own speed.  The lessons will continue to be available to you for as long as you want to access them.

Check the website for other online classes.

It’s not about the Grades!


You may think this is an odd or even irresponsible thing for a tutor to write (or think) – but it is true!

I have tried to encourage my students to forget about the grades and, instead, aim to do their best work and to gain the most knowledge from their studies.

#1  The knowledge is what counts.

The whole enterprise of education is to help disseminate and gain knowledge – the ability to reason, think, and draw conclusions.

What does a “C” a “90%” or a “Level 3′ mean in all this?

Not much!

In fact, students receive grades for all sorts of reasons – not always connected to the acquisition of knowledge.

I have seen a high school student (more than one actually) score in the 90% range for mathematics; yet, she could not tell me what 3 x 3 is without a calculator.  (Also, if she made a mistake on the calculator doing this same operation, she would not recognize the error.)

So what, exactly, does the 90% mean?

Here is another true example.  A student received a B+ (77%, Level 3+) in his English class; however, he was unable to write a full sentence by himself.  In fact, he was unable to dictate a sentence very well and a paragraph was beyond him even with the dictation – scribe method.

So what did the mark / grade measure?

Simply said, it wasn’t very useful.

The student, himself, did progress. The gains he made should be recognized, and he should be commended for his own personal growth.  Providing a “grade,” however, was not an essential part of his knowledge acquisition or growth.

#2    The grades will follow.

If the focus is on using solid study strategies and gaining new knowledge, then the grades will come anyway!

Even if grades remain an essential part of educational assessment, focusing on them does not help.

Look to the content of what you are learning and spend your energy on getting to know the material.

There are those who want to give up on grades all together, and I understand why.

I am, however, still pleased to see some marking scheme in certain areas.

For myself, I like to see that I have conquered 80% or 90% of a given set of math questions, for example.

This does not mean that if I get 50% I give up!  It just helps me to know where I need to focus my energy. In other words, I obviously didn’t comprehend that unit fully.

So, maybe we don’t need to throw the baby out with the bathwater but a new perspective could help.

#3     Students get it!

Over nineteen years, I have seen lots of students – many with learning challenges of one kind or another.

Each one has known that his/her “A” may or may not be connected to the material he or she has learned.  Students know when they have truly done well and when they haven’t.  The are happy to get the grade, but time and time again, students have admitted that they don’t know how they got an “A” in a class they barely understood.  They know when their mark is based on an IEP or some other standard (although it isn’t always clear what that standard might be).

They have all appreciated that in private or small group tutoring classes they can be more honest about grades and actual knowledge.  Not only are they happy to be more honest with themselves; but, often, they begin to excel with new vigor, recognizing that beginning at their “START” point, they don’t have to think or worry about “the score” at every juncture.

Why keep up the charade?

It is time to rethink!

Finally – what does the picture on this blog have to do with anything?  Well, you tell me – put your thinking cap on!

It doesn’t matter how slowly you go….


“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”   Confucius

What a wonderful quotation!

So many of my students get frustrated because the school requires them to reach certain levels at particular ages/grades – and, yet, they are not ready!

The goal of education is to learn – to improve – to enjoy – and to gain an understanding that we didn’t have before (or to remind us or build an additional tentacle to our network of knowledge).

If you are in grade 7 but have a limited (or non-existent) understanding of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and/or division – are you ready for algebra and complex fraction operations?


And there is no shame in that.

Start where you are.  Take one step forward.  And then another.  And another.  And so on until the foundation is secure. Before you know it, you will be ready to learn those fractions!  (Or write an essay, book report, chemistry formula, etc.)

If you stop, however, then those fractions will forever be a mystery to you.

So, keep moving forward.  Keep challenging yourself, and you will be surprised at what you gain!

Tutoring Central Store

mouse - cheese

Well, I know I haven’t been blogging much.

I have, however, been working away at getting more items online.

I have set up a little store via teacherspayteachers:

Also, I have uploaded a basic writing course to Wiziq – but it is still in progress, more about that later.

On the website, there is an offering for photo-prompt writing lessons.  The form is all ready to go!

So, you see I have been busy after all.Featured image

Well, that’s enough about me.  Let’s hear about how things are going for you!  I look forward to hearing and reading about everyone’s adventures.