That Horrible “A” Student! I Hate Him.

That Horrible “A” Student!  I Hate Her. 

How does he do it?

She is always on the top!

He just knows the answers!

She never has to study.

I hear these comments from students all the time. If you are a parent or teacher, I’m sure you do as well.ladybug-158326_640

It’s a modified case of “the grass is greener on the other side.”

Those “A” students simply have it easier.

But, they don’t!

I have met several of these students who “don’t have to study” or “just know the answer” except they actually do study; and, by their own admission, they often don’t already know the answers.

They had to work!

Sometimes it’s mom and dad who lay down the law and make sure that there is a set time every day for homework – often more than the recommended amount of time.

Sometimes the student himself or herself takes the initiative and applies solid study skills and strategies.

You aren’t crazy!normal_crazy_mean_dog

Well, I can’t guarantee that without having met you, but you aren’t crazy on this point.  Many of these “A” students don’t want others to know that they spend time studying and practising.  Some of them will go out of their way to conceal such “horrible” aka GREAT habits.

Students don’t always want to admit that they care about school or their studies.  They often want to “fit it” and agree with fellow students who complain and whine about assignments, teachers, etc.

Other times, they want it to seem like they are simply geniuses and the answers fall from the sky like rain.  Wouldn’t it feel good if you could pretend to your friend that you simply KNOW the answers with little or no effort?

Exactly.

This week’s video:  Horrible “A” Students. I Hate Them!

So don’t be fooled.

Those “A” students don’t have it as easy as you think.

Having said this, once a student begins down the road of being an “A” student he or she will find learning faster and easier.  Just as with any skill, practising and discovering new strategies will make you better and more efficient.

The network of knowledge becomes wider, deeper, and richer.  In other words, the more you know – the more you will know because you will begin to make connections that build your knowledge structure.  This, in part, is what those “A” students are doing.

Once these habits, strategies, and networks are in place sometimes it does seem like magic even to the “A” student.  Someone asks them, “How do you know that?” “I don’t know how I know.  I just do.”

After that conversation, who could blame you for thinking that it is magic, luck, or genes?

Sometimes they study without even knowing that they are studying. If they have a keen interest in a particular subject they are probably reading every book and article they can find because they love it.  They are watching videos, television programs, and movies about the subject.  They are talking to others about it.

Then, “I didn’t study” is not quite accurate, although they might not feel like they have been studying.  Still, they are getting all the same benefits.

They are reading and re-reading.  Each article or book will review and add to their foundation of knowledge.  They will be reciting by talking to others who love the same topic.  So they are questioning, reading, reciting, and reviewing.  Remember the SQ3R Method I wrote about last week?

They are doing it automatically.

What can you do to become one of the horrible “A” students? Creativity Idea Inspiration Light Lightbulb Bulb

It’s easy.  Well, relatively easy to get started at least.

Give up the idea that “others” have it easy, and there is nothing you can do.  That is simply not true.

Start building your network of knowledge using tried and true learning strategies.

It would not hurt to “get interested.” Sometimes you have to fake it until you make it – but generally, with a little effort, you can find a key to begin liking – dare I say loving – a subject.

Approach every course with a positive attitude and a desire to gain something from it.  Try to make as many connections as you can, both within and between subjects, particularly to things you are interested in.  (Who does this historical figure remind me of in my own family?) This will help you retain more information and again increase your overall interest level.

Don’t be afraid to read, read, and read!

Don’t be afraid to spend time on your efforts.  Looking to do the minimum will never get you to the top.

Remember – Yes you can!

Do you need help to get there?  I would love to help you along the way as your personal educational coach.LTLTutoring_eighth_gueAUG16-01

Website: www.tutoringcentral.com

 

 

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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 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.

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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?
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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!

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