Most people are most vulnerable when they are teens. Worrying what other kids think about what they wear, who they eat lunch with, and where they’ll hang out on Friday night.

For some, it can be a great time of life and for others, it can be miserable. For some, it is a time to get lost in learning; knowing that teachers are there to help them when they don’t understand and redirect their actions when something is done incorrectly.

Unfortunately, many students often learn how to just complete a task. They figure out what the teacher wants and without putting much thought or effort into it, race through the work and turn it in.

The best teachers know how to draw students into intentional thinking, intentional problem solving, intentional learning.

I think all people are hesitant to really invest any time or energy into something that they don’t fully understand or love. It takes real effort and intentional action to try something new.

Think about the bravery that is required to do any physical activity, for the first time, in front of other people. You could be jumping on a trampoline, diving into a swimming pool, or learning a new dance. It is unnerving to put yourself out there for the first time. What will other people say when I screw up?Will they think lesser of me because I can’t do this thing right?

Imagine you’re entering a dance class in high school. Chances are most of the kids in this class have some experience with dance, cheer, or tumbling. They are already used to trying something new in front of other people. They know that they have some ability to dance and enjoy it so much that whatever other people are thinking doesn’t matter.

Until they hear that they’re learning a completely different type of dancing, Bollywood. They haven’t ever seen it before, they can’t imagine themselves moving and stepping because they’ve never seen it done. They’re not familiar with the music. The stories that are being told through this type of dance are culturally foreign. They nervously smile and look around to see that nearly everyone else in the room is feeling the same way. 

However, emotionally, dance is universal. The students learn to relate their own life experiences to the dance style.

What does this have to do with you?

Well, if you’re feeling stuck, or alone, or in a place that nobody understands, there is a way out of that feeling. It does take a brave step or two from you. You need to know what you want to do, but more often than not, you need permission. What is really blocking you from doing something new? What is keeping you from progressing? Do you know what needs to be done? Have you been given permission (from yourself or someone else) to begin?

We live in a world where it’s simple to learn something new. There is so much information in front of us on the internet that we can do nearly anything we set our minds to. But, you can over-prepare to the point of information overload. You can become stuck with so much information that you don’t know where to begin.

Trust the dance teacher, or a mentor, or a friend. You need instruction, but you need the signal to begin. Permission. Begin. Start. Make a plan, but take a step. Start doing something. People might be standing around watching you, and you might feel self-conscious that you’ll do something wrong. Don’t let that stop you. They’re not doing anything for themselves. They’re just standing there, watching you.

You have permission. That’s the only real block for a lot of people. You may begin. Even if people are watching. Give them a show. Show them that you want to achieve, learn, do. You can do it. You are capable. You have the ability to learn and progress built inside of you. Don’t let fear or others opinions stand in your way!

Whatever it is that you want to accomplish, it can’t be as terrifying as being in a high school dance class 🙂

You can Own Your Good! Make it happen! You’ll be amazed at your progress and growth!

– Dave

Check out the Own Your Good podcast episode with Amber McCord, my friend, and a high school dance teacher.

https://davidlstone.com/own-your-good/

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.

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

 

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

A student made a video call during class today, again. But this time, I smiled. She’s done it before, against my classroom rules. Today however, she was learning something.

We Worry

How can I engage students who spend a fair amount of time on screens? Before I became a teacher, I went to a technology conference looking for ways to incorporate technology into my lessons. At the time it seemed like the only apps and devices available had to do with online quizzes and reading eBooks. To say the least, I was disappointed. I knew that there would be no way to use devices in a way that would help my students enjoy literature and writing. It seemed unnecessary using computers just to use computers.

A Change of Heart

It turns out I wasn’t thinking about teaching with technology correctly. As teachers, we sometimes think students will be entertained by new apps, or that they need more time in front of a computer to build or practice skills. Students will use technology in the classroom, but in the ways that they already do every day. Students don’t need to experience new apps as much as teachers need to use existing technology to engage students’ minds.

The Challenge

I invited students to learn something new. I wanted them to take ownership of their education, and give them the confidence that they can do it. I wanted to show them that the skills we work on in English apply to life.

A few months ago I had students create a free blog. No more book reports, just writing about what they read. Sure, that’s relatively new technology, and it’s not much different from Instagram or Snapchat.

Now, they are learning how to write for an online audience. They know how to embed pictures and videos, and create hyperlinks to videos and other websites.

Technology in Action

This assignment was to learn something new over a week, and document (through writing, picture, or video) what they learned, and where they found the articles or videos that helped them. They could also talk to people that they know and learn from them. My first thought was that they would just use YouTube or a parent to learn something and then write about it, and maybe take a picture of the end product (or bring cookies to class). Or, if they learned a trick or dance move that they could film, they’d get a short video and create a link to it.

One girl in particular video-called a friend. She wanted to learn how to sign a song. She got help from a friend whose mother is deaf. She could ask questions, show her the signs to see if she was getting it right, and then move on to the next part of the song. It is a great use of technology, and she can show how she learned something new. She can write about how it worked, and what could have been better. I was impressed with something that had upset me before.

I haven’t yet seen their reflections on their learning, but I’m excited to see what my students produce about what they have learned. I’m sure it will be a great conversation.

Takeaways

  1. Authentic learning is interesting to students.
  2. Authentic writing is interesting to read for teachers.
  3. Solid teaching practices take some time setting up and training, but pay off with multiple forms of assessing student learning.

What about you? Have you tried anything like this? I’d love to know what you’re doing in your classrooms with technology.

Read on!

-Dave