It is a clichè, but I am a creature of habit. Just the other day my kids asked me to help tune up their bikes. I had just finished my day teaching online and was thinking about making dinner. Fixing bikes wasn’t on my list of things to do during that 2 hour time period. I immediately felt anxious about having to do another thing in a small window of time. I love my kids and want to help them exercise and have fun but at the time it was too much. I pushed my kids off until Saturday.

I feel guilt pushing my kids off to another day.

Schedules can feel restricting, like something that ties us down. But, I like to think of schedules like they’re the string that holds a kite up in the air. Kids need guidance and security no matter how much they fight it. Like the wind pushing the kite higher and higher, kids feel secure when they know what is coming up and what is expected of them.

Schedules are more important now especially since kids don’t have the structure of going to school. It isn’t summertime. Kids still have responsibilities with school and maybe even work. If a schedule doesn’t exist for them and parents aren’t helping keep kids on track, kids are less likely to get their schoolwork done and waste the day playing videogames or watching videos.

How to

It’s the parent’s responsibility to help their kids get things done. Parents know what their kids need, and what their weaknesses are when it comes to working.

  1. Sit down with your child and plan the week. Write it out. Print it off. Make it accessible.
  2. Be specific. Don’t just write in a window for homework. Create time slots for individual classwork.
  3. Make time for fun things too.
  4. Check with your kids each morning. Make sure that they have what they need for their work.
  5. Be aware of what is happening. You have your work to do, but watch what they’re doing.
  6. End the day with a reflection. How did the day go? What work got done? What work still needs more time?
  7. Hold them accountable. Set expectations with rewards and consequences. They are more capable than we often give them credit for. If you follow through with rewards and punishments they will feel the weight of getting things done daily and not putting things off.

Most students aren’t self-motivated. They need guidance on how to make things happen. They need someone to help them get started.

It is a strange time

These experiences will help define who they are and what they are capable of. Our kids and students are learning what it takes to be flexible, adjust to different circumstances, make things happen, and perhaps most important, they are learning how to communicate with people about what is expected.

I know it is difficult to manage your job, and your kid, or kids’ schoolwork. That’s why scheduling is so important. The more practice they get, the more you can leave them to do what they need to.

You can do this. Your kids can do this. We are all working for the same results. We want to see our students, your kids make good decisions, learn from their mistakes, and be successful and resilient in the future.

Hang in there!

-Dave

 

What is education, really? The system that we use today is based on the Classical Education format called Trivium. There are many resources online that can illustrate what each stage of this Classical system looks like. Basically, Classical Education has three phases: Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric.

Are your kids’ teachers expecting them to do assignments that they are capable of doing? I’m not saying you should challenge your kids’ teachers, just be aware of what your kids are generally capable of, and what they are trying to do in their schoolwork.

Homeschool is a totally different process with many different theories to back up every parent who chooses to teach their kids at home. The end goal, I think, is the same. Parents and teachers want to see their students be successful in whatever it is that they choose to do. The processes are different, but only in some ways.

Education is to help each of us learn how we learn, and that we can.

Grammar

Little kids learn massive amounts of information when they are young. Elementary, or Grammar school is all about memorizing letters, words, processes, steps in math, etc. Reading skills grow intensely here. Learning is generally interesting and fun. Kids love to discover new ideas and tell family members all about it. This is where some students who struggle fall behind. If they miss a skill because of illness, it is very difficult to catch up.

I don’t understand how teachers manage to continue this type of teaching remotely. Kids need so much in-person instruction.

On the other hand, homeschooling this age group is totally manageable. What do students need to learn? First of all, students need to be comfortable with curiosity. Parents and teachers should be careful to foster research when their students have questions. Everything should be discoverable. Coach kids through internet research. Guide them to reputable sources. Provide them with equal opportunities to read or watch video about what they are interested in.

Don’t get confused and try to mix the two. Maintain whatever the teacher has assigned. Keep up the best you can. If you get behind, don’t worry. Help your student in other ways. Read with them. Watch fascinating science videos with them. Have interesting conversations about things that they are wondering about. Remember, they are discovering new things every day. They find things fascinating that you have known for a very long time.

Logic

Pre-teen and teenage students are in this category of taking the things that they learned in the Grammar phase and verifying whether they are true or important. They don’t consciously ask questions, but they are validating and discarding ideas every day. These students are thinking about how what they have learned applies to them as a person of a larger societal group.

They also start to worry about whether other people their age think the same way. They are just as worried about their friends’ opinions, as they are about the rules of the world around them. They function on the if/then process. They start to see consequences and benefits to behaviors and actions. Some students obsess over what is logically correct and worry about everyone else following those rules. The best example I can think of is the student who is in charge of keeping the whole class “in line” going to lunch.

These kids are difficult to wrangle during class at school. When I taught 7th and 8th-grade students, they behaved in what seemed like chaotic ways. I think that observation is valid because they had so many different stimuli to respond to. In a single class, students could be more manageable. They understand the process of being on task and being rewarded. They understand how class just before lunch or after lunch changes their behavior.

They are the most likely student to be confused and frustrated during a switch from school at school, to school at home. They know their teacher has the skill to direct them in class. They are a lot less likely to trust parents when it comes to knowledge and assignments.

Rhetoric

High school and college students are much more manageable in the adjustment from school at school to school at home. They might not be organized enough to stay on top of assignments, but if they have been to school enough to know the teacher’s expectations and systems, and if the teacher maintains those systems, the students should be okay.

According to the Classical Trivium system, Rhetoric is the phase when students have the ability to take knowledge from the Grammar stage, and experience from the Logic phase and put them together and run them in the background while they begin abstract thinking. This is the big idea and imagination phase. This is the phase that I enjoy teaching in the most. They start to see that questions or controversies about communism (or any controversial ideology) are intricate and never black or white, right or wrong. Students can have ideas but have a difficult time trying to explain them. I enjoy talking them through their thought process. I love asking questions to see what they really mean. This is so much easier to do through the internet.

Assignments are reasonably easier too. If I have done my job through the beginning of the year, students already know what I expect and how to do the work. I can assign a research paper, provide guidelines for what sources will be appropriate, and which ones won’t work. I can have a group conversation where students can help answer questions because they have already been in a similar situation, or had a similar experience with a different assignment.

What makes a student “career or college ready”?

Little kids need exposure to a vast amount of information. There is so much out there that helps a student understand the world, and life, and people. Curiosity is the most important skill to nurture and grow. Reading and writing are important too. Can you really be successfully curious without the ability to read and write well?

Hopefully, our kids can make it through the Logic, pre-teen, and teen phase with as little emotional damage as possible. Fingers crossed!

By the time students are in the Rhetoric stage, they are learning, or have learned how to get things done. They are also learning responsibility. This is the toughest place to parent. We want our kids to be successful, and we don’t want to see them make mistakes or fail.

Success only comes through failure.

If we really want our students to learn and not permanently mess up, high school is the place to do it. They need to know what they are capable of. They need to see that they can plan their own day, and make it happen. If they miss a deadline, they need to deal with the consequences. If they can fix it, they should fix it, not you. They can do it. We just don’t let them.

I often joke with my students who want assignments to be easier, or for me to give them easy answers instead of them looking it up. I tell them, “I would love to go to college again. I’ll be by your side to answer your questions and do your work, for $50 an hour.” They kind of laugh like I’m being ridiculous. I don’t know if they’re really thinking about it. They can do it. They can train themselves to be successful. They can use their ability to think abstractly to solve problems for themselves. We need to let them.

I love learning. I want my kids to love learning. I want the students that I teach to love learning. It is supposed to be difficult, but not impossible.

Keep learning. Keep reading. Keep smiling.

-Dave

 

 

I’ve been absent from this site for a while. Things have been changing and I’m excited to share them with you!

I started Wasatch Reading Club with the intention of helping students who struggle with reading. I value the experience of reading a good book and believe that reading is the best way to learn about everything and everyone around us. However, I realized that students who struggle with reading are likely struggling with school as well.

I needed to broaden my scope. I needed to change my offering. I have been producing YouTube videos and writing blog posts for Wasatch Reading Club, but I also teach high school English and English 1010, 2010, and 2200 for Weber State University through our high school’s Concurrent Enrollment program. Wasatch Academic Coaching is different. It’s more broad in covering all of the different elements of education, not just reading.

Every day I see students not motivated to do the work. There are many reasons why students struggle. It is possible that there are as many ways for students to struggle as there are students. And this is the problem with our Public Education System. How can I as a caring and demanding teacher, help all of my students where they need it most?

It is a daunting task.

Is it possible? Sure, why not?

Is it going to happen? I don’t know.

What would it take for me to help each of my students feel successful in school?

What about actually being successful in school?

Time. Time, and effort.

So, Dave. What is it you do as an Academic Coach? Is it the same teaching?

Kind of. I’ll explain.

  • Academic Coaching is helping an individual make discoveries about themselves.
  • Academic Coaching is about providing an outside commentary about what I see and hear from an individual.
  • Academic Coaching is helping an individual understand what they want, and what steps it might take to get there.

It’s like Athletic Coaching, but Academic.

  • Academic Coaching is not talking about the past, like therapy. It’s not a never ending schedule of appointments forever talking about the future.
  • Progress is made IF you’re ready to act.

Academic Coaching is dependent on trust.

Academic Coaching is for the student who has a hard time with homework completion, procrastination, turning homework in, being organized, and understanding assignment instructions. It’s a big process that can be overwhelming.

I can help break down what is expected, what it takes, and guide students on the ways of getting it done.

That is Academic Coaching.

I have experience not doing well in school. I understand the dichotomy of pleasure and pain as it relates to procrastination, homework, and grades.

I know what it’s like to go back to college as an adult with a family.

I know what it’s like to desire change and improvement and not know how to make it happen.

And, I have made it through.

I am available to work individually with students (and parents) through school and what teachers expect.

If you want to have a chat about your student and what it might look like to work together, drop me a line.

Dave@WasatchAcademics.com

Good luck comes from good work!

Read on!

-Dave

We’re rapidly approaching the end of the school year and I’ve had the hardest time trying to motivate students to keep trying. Even some of the students who are typically on top of everything are letting assignments slide. I know that they’re overwhelmed, but who is at fault? Their lives are busier than ever with school, homework, jobs, and sports. They definitely don’t get enough sleep, so I can see why they zone out during class. They didn’t hear about the assignment and are so glazed over that they don’t check our online learning management system. What can I possibly do to keep students on track for graduation?

The Problem With School

I’m genuinely concerned with the future of education. I recognize that teaching is the way it has been for a long time and while technology is changing rapidly, teaching is not. I have decided to ask my students what they think the solution is. Many admitted that they didn’t know how to fix things, but they did offer some ideas that might help them individually. Here are some of the things they don’t like about school:

  • Excessive homework
  • School start time
  • Seemingly irrelevant content
  • Bored or tired teachers
  • No real break during breaks (Spring Break, etc.)

Solutions According to Sophomores

From conversations that I’ve had with multiple classes of students, they fully recognize that they don’t know what the possible solutions are, however, we both recognize that something needs to change.

Sleep

One of the possible solutions is a later start time. If school started later, they would be able to get the sleep that they need, and do all of their activities after school. There are potential issues with this solution, including bus schedules and truancies, but I think they can be worked through. Parents and siblings would have to adjust, but if students are at their best in the few years before university, won’t they be better off?

More Time

Another possible solution is for students to work at their own pace. They recognize the need for deadlines, but they also recognize that not everyone is at the same ability level. Some students take longer to grasp concepts. Some students need more practice with math problems or essay writing. Some students admitted that total freedom at their own pace would be a problem and nothing would get done. Some structure is needed, but flexibility seems to be important. Several students mentioned the possibility of taking online classes. Not that they want to do school 100% online, but that they could get more done without having to go anywhere. The social aspect of school is the other side of it. None of them want to do school alone. They need to see their friends. They need to experience new ideas and interact with others.

Enjoyment

Why can’t class be more fun? It’s a serious question. Students can tell if a teacher has lost interest in teaching. They can tell when teachers are having good or bad days, and whether or not they love their content area. A couple of students were bold enough to say that if a teacher is grumpy or tired of students, they should stop teaching. I can’t disagree with that idea. But, if we change what school looks like, would more teachers stay in the profession longer? And, should class be fun? What in the world can I do to make reading literature more fun than it already is?

Reality

“I know I’m not an artist or musician, so why do I have to take these classes?” or “I’ll never be an athlete, do I really need this fitness credit?” Are some of these classes a waste of time? Could the time that students are expected to be in school be reduced? Could those classes be replaced with more career specific experience? Would our communities benefit from skilled tradesmen and women? I think there could be some compromises here.

To Sum It Up

School should be fun, with no deadlines and no pointless classes. School should be flexible with some class time online, and some class time at school. Teachers should be funny and engaging, and flexible with due dates. Homework isn’t necessarily a bad thing, so long as it helps students learn what matters to them.

Can 15 and 16 year old students know how education works, and how it would be best for them? Can they really know what is best for them? Would they avoid the hard things, like math, or reading? Would they get the work done on time? What would happen if we tried it? What would happen if students focused on what really interested them, and could ignore what they didn’t care about?

Managing a school system is tricky. Public schools have a system. Private schools have a system. Charter Schools have a system. But, they’re all different. Some are run by educators. Some are run by business people. Some are managed by a Board of Directors.

What is the end product?

What do we hope students get from our school systems, whatever they look like?

What do we hope they are capable of as they leave the various education systems and enter the workforce, join a branch of the military, go on to college or a trade school?

 

Do we really need a change in our education systems?

Ultimately, some changes could be made. However, students need to pick what they think is most important and make it happen. There aren’t any shortcuts in life that yield real results. It takes dedication and work to make things happen, even if we don’t like them.

I’m curious, let me know what you think.

Think on, read on!

-Dave

Entertainment

We live in a visual world and we love to be entertained. Our everyday lives are so stressful and busy that at the end of the day, we need a break. It’s great to escape for an hour or two and not have to worry about cooking, cleaning, laundry, and kids. Or, if we are kids it’s great to escape from the demands of parents giving chores, homework from school, friends and their problems, and the school-day itself. There’s so much going on in our lives that sitting down to read a book that will take weeks to finish doesn’t sound fun. It sounds boring. It sounds like school work. It sounds awful.

And sometimes, it is school work. Sometimes there’s an assignment to read a book for an  assignment. Sometimes there’s a test at the end of each chapter. So why read the book if there’s a movie version. It will be so much easier and save so much time if we just watch the movie version.

What’s the Problem With the Film Version of a novel?

Really, there’s nothing wrong with the film version. There are many great books that have been successfully converted to the Silver Screen. If it’s for entertainment, it’s usually great. However, teachers will often show the different film versions of a play or novel to show the artistic choices a director makes. Students can see how one version might be more effective than another, and how the characters vary from one version to the next. For classroom conversation though, it’s difficult to have a conversation about The Hobbit as it’s read in class while some students are making references to the film version. They are very similar, but there are some things that happen in the book that don’t happen in the film, and things that happen in the film that don’t take place in the book.

Recommendation

Films made from books are great. Watching movies for homework instead of reading is a bad idea. However, watching a movie to become familiar with the story can make the reading easier, more enjoyable, or possibly more frustrating. If your intent is to escape; watch the movie, or read. The story will be great either way. If you’re going to have a conversation about the book, you should probably be reading it. If you bring up details from the movie it will be obvious to the teacher or professor that you haven’t really read the book.

It’s almost guaranteed that if you read the book, the movie will be disappointing. There’s no substitute for the images your imagination can produce. There are things that we deduce when we decipher character intent and decode meaning from action or dialogue. Our minds are powerful and can make meaning from words on the page, even if the author didn’t write it all down. In a movie, we have to see what the director captured on film.

Let’s not argue any more about which is better. Book or movie, they’re both fun. Books are more challenging, and also more rewarding. Movies are great for a moment of escape. Both are valuable in a variety of ways.

What do you think? Are there movies that were better than the book? Are there movies that ruined a book for you? Let me know in the comments section, and if you’ve had this conversation before, share this article.

Read on, and watch on!

-Dave