Listening is Good Too!

Many teachers and educators spend a lot of time focusing on reading, writing, taking notes, etc.  All of these skills are admirable focus areas, but listening seems to have been lost in the mix.

Listening is a great skill to practise for both students and teachers.

As a tutor, I need to listen to my students.  I need to truly hear (not just listen) their problems and what they feel might be solutions.  NOTE:  I don’t always have to agree, but I need to be aware and genuinely listening.

Not only does listening help me understand more about the academic (and other) issues that a particular student might be facing, but it also builds a much more solid and genuine rapport with that same student.  If students believe that you are engaged and willing to acknowledge their thoughts – take them into serious consideration – they feel valued and are far more likely to listen to you!

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Of course, students need to develop their listening skills as well.  Not everything they say is a stellar thought.  Not every story needs to be explored ad nauseam.  This, however, is simply another learning opportunity to teach students to self-regulate their comments when appropriate, weeding out the dross and getting to the essential components of what they want to say.

Often, students will tell me that they don’t understand a particular concept.  As I am explaining how to approach the task, they start talking – and often not even about the task at hand!  This is the fragmented world we seem to live in now.  It is important to get the student back on track and listening to the entire explanation.  Without focusing on the task fully and listening all the way through, he or she will be jumping into the assignment without the necessary tools.

When I redirect their attention and inform them that they must be quiet and listen to the entire explanation – first.  They usually have a sudden “A-ha!” moment.  “Now I get it!”

Surprise, surprise, when you have all the tools, things seem so much easier.

Of course, this epiphany does not necessarily mean that the student will take the time to listen fully next time, but it is a step in the right direction.

I do have students who have been with me for years, and they all have improved their listening skills – some of them to the point of being excellent listeners.  They know that their comments and questions will be received well if they have attended.

They know that I am listening.

I am writing this blog today because I am facing some listening issues with a few students.

What is the solution?  Well, we need to do some directed listening practice.  There are many ways to work on listening skills, but here is a case study as an example. (Note: No Bens were injured during this case study.  The name was chosen randomly and is not any of the real Bens that I have had over the years.)

Ben is having difficulty with a math problem from school.  I look over his work and at his textbook.

“Ben, have you read the directions and examined the examples provided?”

“No.”  (This is a very typical answer.  The other is, “Yes, but I don’t get it.”)

“Well, let’s go over the information together, Ben.  Let me hold on to your pencil for you.  I want you to listen carefully and say nothing as long as I have the pencil.  Once I return the pencil to you, you have the floor to start asking questions, suggesting solutions, or complaining about why you even need to learn math anyway.”

This “game” or physical, tactile model works well with most students.  They understand the concept easily and can manage to listen for a much longer period of time than their usual.

Now, to be fair, you have to keep your explanations and comments to a reasonable length and this will vary for different students.  You might have to stop part way through your explanation, give her/him the pencil and allow a comment or question – or ask if she/he understands so far, allowing a release valve.  If you have been listening to the student, you will know his/her limitations and requirements.

Listening is so important.  Let’s all try to practise our listening skills and help others to do the same.

Ron

Website:     www.tutoringcentral.com

YouTube channel:   Tutoring Central

 

Happy Halloween!

Click here for HAPPY HALLOWEEN video – and a few safety tips

Halloween

or

All Hallows Eve

Halloween falls on October 31, which in the old Celtic calendar was the last day of the year, its night being the time when all the witches and warlocks were abroad.  On the introduction of Christianity it was taken over as the eve (even or e’en) of All Hallows or All Saints.

Brewers Dictionary of Phrase & Fable

 Of course, most young people know that the most important part is “trick or treating” – and the treats are the most important part of all!!

Have fun, enjoy, and be safe.

www.tutoringcentral.com

The Time is Now!

That’s right.

There is no time like the present to get started using good study skills.

It doesn’t matter whether you are reading this in October 2016 – or later in the year or early next year, etc., etc.

The best time to start using solid strategies to help you succeed whether in school or in the workplace is right this moment.  (Yes, I tutor adults who want to reach the next level or a totally different career as well as younger students.)

A lot of people manage to “talk themselves” out of getting started.

     “Well, I’ll start next semester because it is better to start on the first day.”

                    “I might be able to start next month once I get rid of this pimple.”

                    “I’m waiting for the winter because then I don’t want to go outside that 

much anyway, so I can study more.”

And on and on and on!

So, my recommendation is to avoid this kind of chatter and start a new one that gets you going.

                    “This morning, I am going to start taking notes.”

                     “This evening, I am going to review my notes and do a few math questions.”

                     “I am going to read my next science chapter using the SQ3R method.”

If you want more help to get started, don’t be shy in hiring a tutor – like me!

www.tutoringcentral.com

If you aren’t ready for personal coaching yet, here is a link to a wee course you can do online that might help you along the way:

Become an A+ Student!

Here are the first three tips of nine that I have posted on YouTube.  Put them into action, and you will see a vast difference.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

I hope you have an amazing St. Patrick’s Day.

Here are a few interesting bits of information about St. Patrick.

He was not an Irishman!

He was born in western Britain.

His father, Calpurnius, was a Roman official and deacon.

Patrick, while still a boy, was captured and sold as a slave in Ireland.  He escaped to Gaul.

He probably studied in the monastery of Lerina before returning to Britain.

He received a supernatural call to preach to the heathen of Ireland, so he returned to Gaul and was ordained deacon.

Finally, he landed in Wicklow, Ireland (432) and traveled north, converting the people of Ulster and later those of other parts of Ireland.

He died around 461 and may have been buried at Down in Ulster.

*These tidbits were primarily drawn from Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable.

www.tutoringcentral.com

tutoringcentral@hotmail.com

Ask Questions

Ask Questions!
Remember to ask lots of questions when trying to learn gold_question_marksomething – no matter the course.
This was not a strong area for me when I was younger. In grade school, some of the teachers thought I was mute because I never spoke!
So, you may need to work at it, but asking questions is essential to getting the most out of your lessons.
There is the obvious advantage of receiving a response to your question.
This can help.
There are, however, even more benefits to asking questions.
In order to ask questions, you need to devise questions. In other words, you are thinking about the topic and searching for answers.
You are taking an active role in your learning!
Asking questions is not a weakness but a strength. The responses can lead you to further investigation and a fuller understanding of the material. Of course, all of this will keep feeding your interest and engagement which can spur you on even further.
In addition, a student who asks questions shows the teacher that he/she is interested enough to be bothered to look beyond doing the minimum.
Teachers love to see students gaining knowledge and becoming engaged with the topic.
Teachers and tutors are human, too.
No – Really! They are!
They like to see that their hard work and effort is being valued.
If you are interested, this helps them to become even more ready to aid in your thirst for knowledge – a nice positive cycle.
Any questions?
www.tutoringcentral.com

 

 

 

 

What is Learning?

What is learning?

Well, this question is far too broad Sunbeams_+1_-1_tonemappedto be answered in a short blog – assuming that it can be answered at all.
But, generally, I think the definition of learning needs to be broadened well beyond the memorization of facts and numbers. Some people believe that is all there is to learning, but there is so much more.

Learning is engagement, comprehension, knowledge networking, and incorporation as well as acquisition.
I don’t believe in throwing the baby out with the bathwater, however.There is value in what has come before, but there’s always so much to learn – especially about teaching and the methods to help students (of any age) reach their goals.

Helping students with motivation and encouraging them to be inquisitive is so important because these are the qualities necessary for life-long learning. Young children are naturally curious and inquisitive. We’ve all experienced the “why…why…why…why” questions! (Feels a bit like an inquisition at times – lol.)
They want to know about everything. The problem is that they are so broad and so brief that they have difficulty reigning in all the disparate bits to develop a coherent learning experience.
That, in part, is a teacher’s job (teacher = parent, tutor, coach, & teacher). The trick is to do so without completely squashing enthusiasm and eagerness to learn.

Technology today may be increasing the duration of this “scattered” learning, so as teachers/tutors/parents, our job will be to help bring the pieces together. Technology is an amazing tool, but that’s all it is without the proper use, it fails. (Yes, I dare to use the ‘f’ word!)

So, I’ve returned to my starting point. Yes, we need knowledge acquisition (facts, information) to be part of learning; however, we also need to be able to network and incorporate these pieces of data while retaining curiosity and enthusiasm.
So learners and teachers (we should all be both), stay motivated – look for the treasure inherent in all learning.
I know you can!

Ron

Website:    tutoringcentral.com

YouTube:   tutoringcentral

Just help!

Just help me get through the course!
I hear this more often than I would like.
It isn’t that I don’t want to help – I do. However, just getting through a course isn’t the true goal of education.
Too often this is the focus of both students and parents.
The grade rules all!
When in reality gaining knowledge should be the ruling factor. (If you know the material well – the grades will come anyway. Staring at the number or letter won’t make one bit of difference!)
If you are studying a course you don’t particularly like right away – and I know there are compulsory courses in which we have no choice – try to find your way in.
Look for videos, magazines, blogs, diagrams, anything related that might ease the pain.
(Hey! Even a good tutor can help.)
Sometimes, you have to fake it until you make it.
Yes.
It can happen. I have seen it happen multiple times in my years of tutoring. Students sometimes stumble upon either a teacher, book, or method that works for them and that “horrible” course becomes one of their best.
Instead of waiting and hoping to stumble upon something, why not be proactive and seek out materials that can engender interest and more excitement about the course.
The more involved you become, the more you are likely to find those pathways into the course and gain that elusive knowledge.
Gaining knowledge, making connections, developing that network of information – that is education!
So try not to be negative. Instead of saying, “Just help me get through this course,” say, “I have lots to learn, and here’s how I’m going to do it.”
Is that cheesy? Maybe – but, hey, I like cheese! mouse - cheese
The more positive you are (or become), the more others will be able to help you. Other students, teachers, coaches, tutors – even the books and articles themselves will be more useful to you if you are engaged and eager to learn.
So, take up the challenge. The next time you hear your inner voice saying, “Just help me….” – help yourself first by turning the negative into the positive.

For more tips and help with your studies, check out the website or contact me (Ron) to set up some sessions:

www.tutoringcentral.com

Skype:  tutoringcentral

e-mail:  tutoringcentral@hotmail.com

It’s not about the Grades!

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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….

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“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?

No!

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!

www.tutoringcentral.com