I had an awesome conversation the other day with a friend who works for an organization that helps people improve their lives through mentors and micro loans.  Poverty is a world-wide problem that can be solved in a variety of ways, but often is best changed with a personal connection and a little bit of time.

Find a Mentor

A mentor is one of the best tools to change your future. Chances are they have been through something similar to what you would like to accomplish. It is also likely that they have had someone else to give them advice or bounce ideas off of. You need someone that understands where you are coming from and believes in you.

The best way to find a mentor is to talk with people that are a part of a group that are doing or studying what you are interested in. As you have conversations with people you will begin to recognize where others are in their own journey, and that they might have some experience to share with you. They might be a part of a Facebook group, or a group on LinkedIn. Introduce yourself and be patient. Ask questions for others to answer. Be willing to talk about things you know, and answer other peoples’ questions. When you find a person that might be open to mentoring you, simply ask them if they have time to talk about a few things, or answer a few of your questions. Be patient. Don’t follow up immediately. They’re busy doing their own thing and they’ll respond when they can.

It’s important to be willing to take other peoples’ advice. They don’t know you or your situation, so they’re giving you honest and legitimate steps that have worked for them. If you aren’t willing to try something new, that is your problem, not theirs. Be gracious about what they are providing to you for free and because they’re nice.

You may arrange a professional mentoring relationship that guarantees time and advice that you are paying for. This can be a good way to get personalized advice and the relationship benefits both of you.

There are a lot of people in the world that are at different stages in their own process. You will eventually be a potential mentor for others as you gain experience and knowledge. Be open to helping others just as some might have helped you.

You Can Do Anything

Whatever it is that you want to learn, whatever it is that you want to do, you can do it. You have the potential. You have the tools. You have the support you need, it’s just finding it. Be willing to talk about what you’re doing. Be willing to listen to other peoples’ experiences. Take what you’re learning and apply it to your day.

Nobody wants to look like a fool. It’s embarrassing to be seen as dumb or clumsy. Do we lose this insecurity as we grow older? In our teenage years it’s probably the thing that takes most of our time. We worry about what others will think about our clothes, our shoes, our hair, the car we drive, almost everything. The thing is, as we worry about what others are thinking of us, they are thinking the same thing. We are motivated to do things that we wouldn’t normally do because of what we perceive to be other peoples expectations.

What is Perception?

Perceptions are dangerous. We can see someone and based on how they’re dressed, what they are driving, how they carry themselves, we think something about them. We perceive them as successful, or smart, or poor. But are they really? We don’t ever have the whole story in front of us.

Perceptions are always assumptions. We assume things about someone based on how they look. We assume things about what someone is thinking when we don’t really know unless they tell us.

Perceptions are a problem because we have to observe situations and people around us. We are accustomed to observing people and guessing things about them. This isn’t necessarily bad when we get to know someone. If we really know someone, our perception, our observations could be totally accurate. If we get to know our coworker, or a fellow student, and we see by their facial expressions that they’re having a bad day, we can attempt to help them feel better. We view ourselves and others as good people who care about those around us. We know that we intend to help, or at least stay out of the way.

We’re All Human

As a teacher, I have observed my students and made assumptions about them. I have seen them behave, or misbehave in class. Some teachers might feel abused or offended by this behavior. Maybe these teachers even feel targeted by their students’ indifference to the lesson and assignment, like it’s a personal thing. It’s not usually very long after I have thought something about a student, that I find out what’s really going on at home. Maybe not everything is revealed, but enough is brought to light to make me feel like a jerk for thinking negatively about a student.

I like to think I give every student a fair chance in class, but I’m sure there are things that cause me to think or act unfairly toward students. I can only hope that I err on the side of the student more often than not. Not every student feels comfortable asking for help or extra time on assignments.

One student helped me to realize an aspect of the stress of school, and my perception of male students that I hadn’t thought of before. I had heard that some male students are being thought of as lazy. They are perceived as capable by parents and teachers, but they’re not doing the work because they don’t care, or they procrastinate. While that might be true to some extent, one student admitted that he “plays lazy” because he is afraid to perform to his true potential because he was afraid that he would be expected to sustain that grade level or GPA through the rest of his school experience. He knew he was capable of doing it, he just didn’t want to spend that much time doing it. Parents perceived one thing, while he was presenting something else.

The other side of that is the students perception of the energy that would be required to maintain a certain grade level or GPA. Is it really difficult to pass some classes? What is our students perception of us and the work we are having them do? Are our students really capable of doing the work we are asking them to do? We need to be sure that what we are presenting as important and critical to our class, really is important.

Communication is intricate and dangerous. I don’t mean dangerous like someone could die; well maybe death is possible. We don’t just rely on spoken language but body language and facial expressions as well. When we think we see something and guess a persons intentions, we are perceiving falsely. Young people in particular can have a hard time understanding what an adult is saying. A simple lack of experience can cause all kinds of problems.

An Example of Misperception and a Possible Fix

In school, a younger person might not have experience holding a conversation around an academic topic. In this particular instance, a student, Jane, was absent for a day. Now being back in school, Jane might feel lost and not know how to proceed with an assignment. Jane’s perception might be that the teacher expects her to know more than she does. Jane might be embarrassed because she wasn’t paying attention. Jane might be scared that things were covered the day she was sick. Jane’s perception is that somehow she is missing something that was probably already given to everyone else. Is she going to have the confidence to ask questions to fill in the gap that was created by her absence?

On the other hand, the teacher’s perception might be that Jane wasn’t paying attention, or already knows what need to be done. The teacher may or may not remember that Jane was sick and missed an important day. If the teacher remembers that Jane was absent, she might clarify what Jane remembers and what information she missed the day she was sick.

Jane has some responsibility to clarify what the assignment is about and ask for help.

The language of perception is challenging. Too often we are afraid to look dumb in front of other people. We want to be seen as successful and ‘with it’. We can’t control others thoughts or beliefs. We can only marginally impact how others perceive us. How do you dress? How do you style your hair? People make assumptions about you based on how you look. How do you want others to perceive you? Are you successful and confident? Do you dress that way? Do you want to be seen that way? Do you dress like you’re always ready to play basketball? How do you want to be perceived?

You and I are guilty of this kind of thinking. How do you perceive other people? What biases do you have about others? How we perceive others can impact how we treat others. How teachers or other adults perceive you can impact how they treat you. Most often this type of perception and treatment is unfair. A good teacher will take time to get to know students, and not make judgements about ability and intent until later when there is actual evidence of ability.

Let’s Fix It

So how do you manage your perceptions or how you perceive people? I can think of a couple of examples from my teaching experience. My most memorable experience with perception and expectation was when I taught 12 and 13 year olds in grade 7. I’m not super tall at 5’11”, but I did weigh a bit more than I should, and at the time I had a full beard which was almost all gray before I turned 40. I looked intimidating, but I didn’t really understand how intimidating I was until later in the year when students had become more comfortable with me and told me about their first few days in my class. They were respectful at the beginning of the year, which isn’t totally unusual. Everyone is nervous in those first days of school. Later I found out that they thought I was scary. They thought I would be mean, and strict, and unforgiving on their assignments. I just laughed with them. Our perceptions of others can really cause some anxiety.

So what? What does this have to do with me or my child now? Teachers are in the teaching profession to help students learn. Speaking from experience, some students ask for clarity or to understand, but don’t really want to know, or don’t plan on acting on what they are asking for. As a teacher, this can be frustrating. My perception of a student is tied to previous experiences with that student. I genuinely hope that each time a student asks a teacher for help, that that teacher responds seriously and with a helpful heart.

What you can do. Be specific and clear in your request for help. If you, or your student is asking for help or clarification, ask specific questions. Explain why you don’t understand. Honesty is always the best path. State the truth about who was distracting, or what didn’t make sense. Even if the teacher appears to be mean and scary, ask for what you need. If you can get written instructions for the assignment, that can help both teacher and student understand the end goal. Sometimes it might be appropriate to ask for help through email or other school instituted technology. That can work to include parents or others in the conversation.

Practice

Mr./Ms. –

I need some clarification on this assignment.
Can you please explain this to me again?
Are there written instructions somewhere that I can refer to later?
I’m not able to pay attention when I sit by _____________. Could he or I be moved, please?

Review

Perceptions are tricky. What we think we see or hear might not be right.
What our teacher or other adults see or hear might not be right. If more communication or clarification is needed, just ask. Let your student grow from this experience. Don’t take over because you want to protect him or her. Teachers aren’t mean people. They genuinely love the things that they teach and want to help others understand the information.

 

I hope this helped you out! Let me know in the comments.

I’m also available for questions and other motivational helps on Instagram and Facebooknametag.png

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

Like every other skill, writing is something that will not get better without practice. That idea is probably obvious, but how does a student absorb instruction from the teacher? Even if an English teacher or tutor demonstrates how to write an argument, it is often difficult for the student to watch and then do.

Why Write Argument?

When I say argument writing, most students think of arguing. Argument writing can simply be informing the reader about a subject, and supporting the claim with reasons. Writing this way  is a skill that is valuable in a variety of careers. It’s also a skill that many people never have to use once they leave high school. Writing is an extension of thinking, but they’re not synonymous. It would be a weird world if we were to write like we speak. When people speak, we have multiple chances to explain what we mean so long as the people we are talking to stick around to listen. However, when we write we only have that one chance. If we have a point to make, or something to explain with the desire to convince others we have to be clear. It sounds like a big job, but it’s doable.

Graphic Organizers

Most English or writing teachers will use some form of graphic organizer to help students outline what they’re writing about. For some students a simple outline will help them get organized and write. Others need to see exactly what they are doing step by step. Many graphic organizers will be directing students in the same direction by providing boxes or ovals where they can write their thesis, supports from articles, and their commentary about why those quotes or supports make their thesis true.

It looks something like this. I’ll use smartphones as an example.

Thesis or claim:

Android smartphones are better than iPhones.

Evidence, reasons, or supports from articles:

1. There are more types of Android phones to choose from.

2. Android phones are a better value. Cost for features is better.

3. Android phones are more customizable.

For beginning or intermediate writers, the most difficult part of writing is often validating or explaining how the evidence supports the thesis.

This is where we focus on commentary. Explaining how Android smartphones are better than iPhones is obviously opinion, but there are facts for both sides. I could easily argue that iPhones are better than Android phones. The point here, is to explain why I used the reasons or evidences I did.

Evidence # 1 – There are more types of Android phones to choose from. There are many different manufacturers who make a wide variety of smart phones. Some are smaller, and might work better for younger users. Some have better cameras so people can take professional quality pictures. There’s a phone for every need. Some Android phones have bigger screens so people can watch movies anywhere. If a person is on a budget, or a phone gets broken, it is easier to replace an Android phone with something that is affordable. iPhones have different sizes, but they’re all the same, and they’re all expensive.

The idea behind explaining the evidence, or making commentary, is the “so what?”. I made the claim, and you might say so what? So I explain my thinking, or my reasoning.

Writing Is Like Sports

Sports commentators do something similar to writing during every game. They make a statement about a player, or a play during the game, then try to explain or validate why they said what they said. They will talk about the players abilities, their past performances, and their potential future in the sport. When the commentators make a claim, they immediately back it up with their response to the “so what?” question.

Writing is just like having a conversation with someone, but the writer never gets to see the other person. It’s challenging because when we are writing, we have to anticipate what the reader won’t understand. We have to try to think of their questions and answer them in our writing.

This is a simple outline and description for writing. The easier this gets, the more you can customize your writing to what your teacher or professor is looking for. Some writing will require more evidence and commentary, others will be very straight forward summaries.

Write to be understood, read to understand.

-Write on, Read on!

Dave

I’ve been working to build a studio/office for the WRC. The building is already there, but I’ve been finishing one area. I’ve framed a wall, insulated it, sheet-rocked it, and there’s still so much to do before I can start producing video tutorials for this website. The short answer is, things always take longer than you expect. Whatever it is that you’re trying to accomplish, it takes more time than we think. Our brains aren’t very good at estimating the time it takes to accomplish something long term, particularly if it’s something you’ve never done or hardly ever do. I’ve framed a few walls, but I’ve never planned, purchased materials, and finished everything on my own. It’s taking forever! But, I love it! Knowing what will come from this work makes it all worth it.

Learning In Chunks

Learning how to write better, or teaching your child to read takes time and practice. If you’re using a lesson book, you might have to break lessons or chapters into chunks as to not overwhelm your child. Progress happens in little pieces over time. Big chunks of accomplishment are rare. We need repetition to remember things. We need to see things in context to see what they really mean and how they relate to other things. We need to compare our previous experience with the new things we’re learning. It simply takes time.

Character Flaw?

It can be very frustrating and disappointing if you or your child don’t feel success. It seems inevitable that we start comparing ourselves to other people. Particularly in school or at work we see other people who can do something that we struggle with. Your lack of ability is not a character flaw. Your child’s struggles are not character flaws. Our value is not determined on what we can or cannot do.

Learning To Walk

If you or your child doesn’t know how do something, it can be learned. Not always easily, and maybe not always exactly, but eventually. Think about when a child learns to walk. Do we expect them to give up? Do we see them falling and say, “Well, I guess this one isn’t a walker.”? No, obviously if they’re trying to learn how to walk, they will eventually get there with our support and encouragement. Isn’t it so wonderful to see a child struggle, persist, and eventually walk?

The Future

The future is all about possibility. What will you accomplish? What is your potential? What is your child’s potential? We all hope to have some kind of impact on the future. If we think our worth is pinned to what we are capable of doing, we give up. We quit aiming for our dreams. Don’t give up on your dreams. Don’t let time slide by while you think you’re not capable. Don’t let time disappear while you decompress and watch a movie. Growth takes stretching. Development takes work and often, sacrifice. What can you give up for your future? What can you do to achieve your potential? What are you willing to do today, simply because it helps you grow?

You can do it. Whatever it is, make time for it. Practice, build, paint, do it a little bit every day.

You can do it. You have potential! Do it!

Read on!

-Dave