Conformity and the Common Core

standing in lineWe demand that our students raise their hands to ask a question, yet we require that they produce a self-identity reflection project. We insist that students stand in line before entering the classroom, yet we request that they think outside the box when answering that math reasoning question.

Conformity and the Common Core appear to be mutually exclusive. How are we supposed to teach students to think for themselves if we’re overly concerned with adherence to classroom management rules?

Put your backpacks away. Get out your pencil. Sit down. Wait for instructions. Raise a silent hand.

No, this isn’t the 50’s these are some of my classroom norms.

I’m not proud that I’ve had to conform to traditional behavior management systems in order to keep sanity in the classroom. That’s not what I thought I’d be spending 50% of my time on when I decided to become a teacher. In fact, I’m pretty frustrated that, after trying the new ways of running a classroom, still, at the end of the day it feels like I’ve made little difference when it comes to behavior.

On one hand, common core is about being creative, letting your students guide projects and lead learning. On the other hand, if the behavioral needs are too great the creativity gets tossed aside.

Now, I’m not a militant. I’m not perfect; my students are perfect; the system isn’t perfect — and I don’t expect perfection. But I was hoping that when I entered this profession, I’d get to be more creative and not just be a “stickler for the rules”.

The reality is that behavior outweighs creativity. If the classroom is not running smoothly, we cannot do fun things. Some would say the opposite. I was one of those, before I became a teacher. Conformity, fortunately or unfortunately, is required to move forward.

Hurry up and get with the game, cause I’d sure like to do some fun things. C’mon, kids 🙂


Keep up with the latest and greatest blogs, thoughts and resources. Follow us on Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube

Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable and educational nonprofit with a focus on providing wraparound academic, behavior and advocacy support services for struggling students in southern California. Learn More at TerryTutors.com

Advertisements

To the Kid who Doesn’t Want to go Back to School

I hear ya! I’m not a fan of early mornings or homework either.

But when it comes down to it, school is not about the bell schedules or even the grades.

‘Um, what!?’, you gasp.

 

School is a Microcosm of Our Society

Your school represents a small city, a way of learning how to navigate the bigger world around us. Social norms (standing in line, pleasantries, forming groups) are learned behaviors. The ability to challenge yourself and challenge others is a skill, one that school is helping you learn. This Social-Emotional Learning piece of becoming a well-rounded adult in our society is at the heart of your six-hour school day.

Think about public schools, charter schools, independent schools, home school, self-instruction, and private tutors — these all present a different way to learn the material. There are so many ways to learn and so many teaching styles to learn from. It’s why even the state allows parents to choose the way they want their children taught and who to teach them.

Going to School is Really about Self-Discovery

Going to School is more than just learning math and reading and then taking a test to see how well you understood those subjects (or, in reality, how well you take a test).

Going to School is about expression, social norms, working together, developing your EQ (Emotional Quotient), challenging yourself, challenging others to see a concept in a new way, inspiration, inspiring others, grit – seeing failure not as the end but, rather, as part of your success story, discovering new talents, fostering independence, and using education as a ticket to stability and security.

You can learn anything from any book. Heck, you can learn anything from YouTube!

But going to school allows you to learn about yourself.

So I get it. There are lots of not-so-great things about going to school. But I urge you to consider looking at school in this new way. It can be an adventure, a journey of self-discovery. And who knows what you may find during that quest.


Keep up with the latest blogs, thoughts and resources. Follow us on Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube

Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable and educational nonprofit providing wraparound academic, behavior and advocacy support services for struggling students in southern California. Learn More at TerryTutors.com

Life is like a Box of…

Pralinen

Tests.

Thought I was gonna say ‘chocolate’, huh? Well, that too. But in the world of academia, life is very much dependent on testing.

We Make Our Students Take a lot of Tests

On average, US students take 113 tests from PreK-12th Grade. Add undergrad, grad school, and professional development to that number and I can’t even begin to tell you what it would be. Maybe 312? 559?

All I know, as a person who struggles with testing, is that whatever the number might calculate out to be, is one too many for me.

Test Anxiety & The Fear of the ‘What If’

Sometimes, I’m plagued with moments of self-doubt as little naysayer voices whisper in my student loan debit-ridden ear, “How did you get this far with your anxiety over tests?” In fact, that little voice reared its ugly head again just this past week, as took my final test for my credentialing.

Ahhhh, will the anxiousness ever just go away?!

What to Do about It

When my students face the same fear, I ask them to talk about it, make a contingency plan, define what they know, set realistic study goals, and change their mindset from ‘I can’t’ to ‘I will’:

1. Talk About the Fear & The Reality of the Fear : I ask my students to tell me about the ‘what if’ scenarios: What if I get an F on this test? What if I have to retake the class? What if I fail 4th grade? We then go through each thought and discuss the reality of that possibility.

2. Make a Contingency Plan: The likelihood of the fear coming true is usually slim but just in case, we make a contingency plan: If I fail this test, I will have ask for a retake. If I fail this class, I will have to take a course in the summer.  Okay. So we can see that if the fear comes true, although it will delay our timeline, it’s not the end of world. There is another path.

3. Define What You Know: After there’s less emotion attached to each fear and a realistic contingency plan in place, I ask my students to tell me what they know about the test. See, often our fears stem from the unknown. If I can get my students (and myself!) to articulate the known factors about the test, then that gives us a clear starting point to begin working on confidence and trust in their own abilities.

4. Set Realistic Study Goals: Studying for 12 hours a day/7 days a week is not realistic. I’ve come to realize, through my own experience, that it’s really not about studying more that gets the passing score. Your brain is a muscle and it gets tired and needs to rest too. So, let’s help the muscle by giving ourselves timely brain breaks. This means mapping out a realistic time management study schedule that allows the student to do fun things, family things, and friend things as well as study.

5. Change Your Mindset: This is too hard! I can’t do this! I’ll never get it! I try to help my students realize that every time we feed these negative messages to ourselves, we are training our brain to believe it. That’s something I recently learned when I had my very first hypnotherapy session for my own test anxiety. The more we tell ourselves we’re not good enough, the more we begin to believe that it’s true. So if we continue to tell ourselves ‘we’ll never pass this test’, then we may experience a self-fulfilling prophecy.

When we change the message, we can change our mindset. You are already good enough. Period.

Keep up with the latest blogs, thoughts and resources. Follow us on Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube

Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable and educational nonprofit providing wraparound academic, behavior and advocacy support services for struggling students in southern California. Learn More at TerryTutors.com

Higher Education May Earn Your Child Middle Class Status, If It’s Still Around

majoring in debtIn light of President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union Address, I thought it appropriate to touch upon his proposal to do away with the 529 Higher Education Tax Free Savings Plan and replace it with comprehensive college cost reform, including making community college free. There are mixed feelings surrounding this idea but I for one agree that saddling our new grads with obscene amounts of student loan debt takes a toll not only on our young professionals but also on the economy, particularly the Middle Class.

Since the mid-1960’s, Baby Boomers began earning college degrees in droves for a fraction of the cost of their children, due to federal subsidies fueled by a national push to ensure college for all. Although a noble idea, there were so many students earning their Bachelor’s degrees that over time the four-year college achievement was watered down –some now consider it a mere extension of high school. But to work your way up to or maintain middle class status, it seems that you still must go to college.

To further discuss the impact a requisite college diploma has on America’s Middle Class and the future of such education necessities for our children, is Johanna Campbell, M.A. in Applied English Linguistics.

Every Parent Just Wants the Best for their Kid

As I am not a parent, I will avoid speaking as one.  Instead, I will tell you what I hear from my parents: their desire is always for their kids to have more, be more, do more than they did.

Perhaps this sounds familiar.  Perhaps it is true.  It’s certainly apparent that the desire comes from a place of love, because love is the only thing daft enough in this world for someone to slave away at a life of toil for someone else to reap the rewards.

Of course I jest.  A bit.  But there’s an undercurrent going on here, an economical phenomenon that at some point will implode from lack of sustainability.

The Stakes Keep Getting Higher

Most Americans self-classify as middle class.  This has been a category to which most Americans have assigned themselves for decades.  Distinction within the broad spectrum ranges from “lower middle” to “upper middle”, but the basic tenants remain the same: at the end of bill-paying, there’s enough left in the coffers to throw at retirement, plan a vacation, and still buy a latte.  Christie L. Owens, Executive Director of the National Employment Law Project, a research and advocacy group, says she considers “middle class to be people who can live comfortably on what they earn, can pay their bills, [and] can set aside something to save.”

Thus was she quoted in a January 26 article in the New York Times.  It used to be that movement within the classes was predominantly upward.  Now, apparently, middle class shrinkage is due to movement in quite the opposite direction.

Higher Education May Get You to Middle Class

It’s interesting to consider what role education has played in this retrogression.  Most middle-class adults, the article claims, reached their status through higher education.  Arguably, in a sea of economic swings moving ever-backward, forward mobility is happening.  Socioeconomic standing can improve because academics take focus.  How interesting that such ever-shrinking ground still has room to welcome more.  All that need happen is personal transfiguration, requiring nothing more than education.  But how can one accomplish this?  One is taught to pursue it.

Questioning Our Teachings – What’s Most Important?

Children don’t miss much.  They pay attention to the lessons adults don’t always know they’re teaching.  What is your curriculum focused around?  Spending time where it matters most?  Teaching kids the hard work behind the latest gadget and the newest gizmo?  Encouraging them in the education that it took – that it takes – to buy the stuff?  Really, what are we teaching our children?  What are we teaching them?  Because I assure you, they’re learning the lessons.  Every adult I know, including myself, carries the teachings of childhood that parents didn’t know they were imparting.

Education is what you put into it.  What you learn is what you work for, and what you work for is what’s important to you. It all comes full circle.

Guest Blogger Bio: Johanna Campbell, M.A. in Applied English Linguistics

The most recent addition to the IHS editing staff, Johanna Campbell brings over a decade of writing and editing experience to the team.  She has worked as an education consultant in the oil and gas industry for over seven years.  She previously taught at the University of Houston, where she also received her Master’s in Applied English Linguistics.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic, Behavior, Special Education Advocacy, and School Placement services.  Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com.

Emotional Academics

sad We don’t often hear a lot of discussion on how emotions play into academic success or defeat but the two go hand in hand. Children are just learning the ins and outs of how to appropriately deal with their feelings — how to self-regulate– but adults struggle with this too. For example, work productivity is directly affected by how motivated we are that day, and our motivation hinges on how good or bad we happen to feel. We’re all on a steep learning curve when it comes to understanding the causal relationship between emotions, productivity, and its direct effect on our students academic success.

Here are some Social-Emotional Learning pieces that I consider when working with my students:

  • To Serve the Whole Student, We Must Acknowledge Our Students Emotions. Then we have to go one step further to teach them how to appropriately deal with their excitement, anger, frustration, happiness, or sadness.
  • Find an Age-Appropriate Tool to Help Your Students Learn to Identify their Feelings and Self-Regulate Accordingly. A Feelings Wheel or Thought Box are two great resources that I use all the time with my students and their families.
  • A Simple “How was your day?” often does the Trick.  This seemingly innocuous question opens the door to conversation about how they are feeling. Then, make their “Feelings Baseline” your baseline for the lesson.
  • Everybody is Entitled to a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. And that’s ok! Even the most together adult has a horrible day once in a while. Instead of dwelling on the terribleness of it all, we have to use that time to (1) acknowledge, (2) deal appropriately, (3) gain trust through empathy, and (4) reassess your expectations for that day’s lesson.

By working with both typical and atypical developing students, I’ve learned (and am still learning on a daily basis) how to adjust my expectations based on how my students deal with their emotions. Do they bottle it up inside until it blows? Do they cry at the drop of a hat? Do they know how to recognize and identify what they are feeling?

The goal, of course, is to find that sweet spot: the point where I’m teaching a student to self-regulate through independent study while also challenging them to increase their own expectations.

Academics are about more than just working towards an A. It’s how we teach our students to appropriately deal with the myriad of emotions that come with this challenge that is of most importance.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Comprehensive Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic, Behavior, Special Education Advocacy, and School Placement services.  Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com.