Ever since our trip to Iceland in July I’ve been enamored of all things Icelandic, including the language.
Every Icelander we met spoke lilting, perfect English to us, and then chattered to one another in a jaunty Nordic blur punctuated by frequent smiles and exclamations of Yow!
Our favorite tour guide was a college student in his early 20′s. Chiseled, blond, and surely a direct descendant of Leif Erickson, Tucker turned out instead to be a skateboarder dude from Wisconsin.
Tucker had discovered that the University of Iceland provides free tuition, room, board and health care to any student, regardless of citizenship, just so long as they speak Icelandic; he grabbed a self-study language course and hunkered down to practice every day…and, two years later, here he was! Yow!
The brain is amazingly “plastic,” and even if it’s not “good at” some subject, if you work at it little by little, consistently, learning will happen!
But what if you, or your student, just haaaaates some subject?…and therefore avoids it like the plague? All the more reason to chip away at it, little by little. Research shows that liking increases with expertise, and with familiarity.
She describes the little-by-little process the French use to slowly educate their kids’ taste buds and learn to love a wide range of foods:
My American baby books recognize that certain foods are an acquired taste. They say …
Why don’t they listen to us?
Along with academic tutoring and test preparation, I teach study skills: how to study for a biology test, how to write a term paper, how to learn vocabulary words.
Parents are eager for these lessons, and also jaded.
- He knows this stuff already.
- Her teachers repeated this over and over all last year.
- I’ve already told him a thousand times!!!
At the first meeting of my new How to Talk to Your Kids class, parents took turns introducing themselves. Lo and behold, every parent had boys and only boys (except for one mom who also had a baby girl; she hastened to explain that her daughter was “easy” and it was her son she was concerned about).
Next time, I’ll call the class How to Talk to Your Sons.
The parents of boys report a common set of problems. Their sons are lazy. They procrastinate. They don’t talk and they don’t listen. They don’t ask for help and they resist advice.
The boys approach their studies with attitudes of defiance and bravado. They under-prepare for tests and then shrug off the poor grades. School is stupid, reading is boring and why do we have to learn this math, anyway? They seem immune to learning from their mistakes. They study even less for the next test, not more.
Of course, not all boys are like this, and plenty of girls fit the profile. Still, this constellation of typically male character traits and attitudes plays less and less well in our evolving economy and culture. David Brooks wrote:
To succeed today, you have to be able to sit still and focus attention in school at an early age. You have to be emotionally sensitive and aware of context. You have to communicate smoothly. For genetic and cultural reasons, many men stink at these tasks.
In elementary and high school, male academic performance is lagging. Boys earn three-quarters of the D’s and F’s. By college, men are clearly behind. Only 40 percent of bachelor’s degrees go to men, along with 40 percent of master’s degrees.
Thanks to their lower skills, men are dropping out of the labor force. In 1954, 96 percent of the American men between the ages of 25 and 54 worked. Today, that number is down to 80 percent.
Brooks was responding to Hannah Rosin’s new book, The End of Men, in which she suggests that men are suffering from a lack of adaptability.
Women, Rosin argues, are like immigrants who have moved to …
Elena is a beautiful 16-year-old who blithely drifted in and out of my English II classroom this year without any materials…. Over the course of eight months, Elena continued to leave assignments incomplete and did little class work… She lost study guides, lost materials, and lost interest in editing and revising her work.
So writes Colette Marie Bennett, veteran teacher and department chair, in a very good article for Education Week Teacher entitled To Pass or Not to Pass? The End-of-Year Moral Dilemma.
….On the rare occasion when Elena turned in work, she demonstrated that she was capable of writing on grade level. Numerous common assessments taken in class indicated that her reading comprehension was also on grade level…
Now, as the grades are totaled in June, I wonder: Do I hold her accountable for work left incomplete? …If I exempt her from less important assignments, am I reinforcing her lack of responsibility? Finally, is passing her fair to the students who did complete the assigned work?…Will re-enrolling her in 10th grade English bare a different result? Is she prepared or unprepared to meet the rigors of 11th grade English?
Scratch the surface of laziness and underneath you’ll find fear, confusion, frustration, lack of knowledge, lack of skills, anger, sadness…
And, often, just plain exhaustion.
Willpower is a limited resource, and the demands of the school day can drain a student of her ability to attend and persevere.
1. Consider Location: Where Does Your Child Do His or Her Homework?
The bedroom is often the worst place in the house!
- It’s lonely (no companionship or support)
- It’s full of distractions, electronic and other
- And there’s that sleep-inducing effect of staring at or studying on one’s warm, cozy, tempting bed
- Dining room table
- Kitchen table or counter (especially for younger students)
My very favorite study location: The public library
[I've been devoting my Friday blog posts to the topic of Learning What We Already Know. There's a ton of wisdom out there in the world, and lots of it has been known for quite a long time but it needs to be passed along.]
I’m going to devote my Friday blog posts to the topic of Learning What We Already Know. There’s a ton of wisdom out there in the world, and lots of it has been known for quite a long time but it needs to be passed along.
November is a special month for me, because both of my parents happened to have been born in, and passed away in, the month of November.
My mom and I loved each other very much. We also had a very stormy relationship which was especially turbulent and painful when I was a teenager.
Here’s a thought for students with executive function issues, and for anybody trying to get some studying done:
I’m a nerdy person and I study all the time, and pretty much everywhere. My favorite study locations are my dining room table, my coffee table, and any public library.
I also do just fine in coffee shops, on the train, in waiting rooms, in the car (reading while parked, or lectures-on-CD while driving), on the beach (I have been known to bring a textbook to the beach, yes), and while watching a less-than-enthralling movie on TV (I’ll browse a book during the dull parts).
I even watch Khan Academy videos in the kitchen while doing dishes; I set up my laptop on the counter and try not to splash.
The ONE place I don’t study? My bedroom. Why? Because I go in there and open a book and fall asleep!