Archive for August, 2011

What Do Struggling Learners Need?

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

This fall, I’m going to be doing some talks at various schools, on the subject of “special needs” learners.

I find that all learners, be they child, adult, “gifted,” “average,” or “special needs” (whatever these labels might mean), need the same things:

Practice. There’s a mystique about the gifted: that they “get” everything automatically, without studying. In fact, the smart kids in the class study more. They tend to read more, and they think about intellectual subject matter as they move through their day, even when they’re not actually pouring over a textbook.

We often excuse struggling learners from practice, cut their homework load down, set lower expectations…and the result is that they miss out on the practice they need, and they fall further and further behind.


Mental Fatigue at the End of Summer

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

-Shakespeare, Sonnet 18

This post is about projection and self-acceptance and those nagging feelings of fatigue.

In this part of the country, kids still have two or three weeks before they start back to school.

Yesterday I sat with one student, Alex, who has been respectfully and dutifully schlogging through his SAT prep work all summer. Alex understands the benefits of all this studying, but his heart’s not in it. He wishes he was doing “something else.”


It’s Our Thoughts That Make Us Tired

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

A dear family member teases me all the time about my coffee-drinking habit…and I know that person is smiling while reading this.

Here’s what happens:

  1. As soon as I wake up I crawl toward that first cup of java. I can’t function without it!
  2. Then, because the first felt soooo good, I down a second cup.
  3. And then I am AWAKE!!! And all revved up! And I get going on a bunch of projects and thoughts and errands, all at once…

Five More Ways to Be Genuinely Helpful

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Lots of folks seemed to like my first five tips, so here are five more!

  1. Avoid opening a can of worms. The act of helping can set off all sorts of power and control dynamics. Sometimes it’s more genuinely helpful to farm the task out to someone neutral. It’s one main reason parents use tutors like me; I’m a third party who can get their kid to do his homework without the power struggles.
  2. Now’s not the time to teach a lesson. It’s tempting (especially if you are a parent or a spouse) to seize upon your loved one’s problem as an opportunity to drive your point home and (finally!) get them to shape up in some way. I keep in mind the words of Dr. Haim Ginott: When a person is drowning is not the time to teach him to swim. In a crisis, what is needed is rescue and comfort, not lessons or advice. There’s time for that later.

 

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