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

Kelly Gallagher’s books were first suggested to me as a first year teacher. I’ve only had the chance to really spend time with one, Deeper Reading. It is subtitled “Comprehending Challenging Texts, 4-12. It’s an amazing resource to help students discover the practice of close reading by focusing on the students’ skills.

Inside Deeper Reading

It’s a relatively short book at just over 200 pages, but so much is covered. There are chapters on focusing the reader, first-draft reading, second-draft reading, meaningful reflection, and teaching versus assigning. Some subjects can be taught cold, meaning students don’t know what’s going on, and eventually they pick up the things they need to remember. They might gain understanding through context and hands on experience. That might be okay for subjects like science or history, but even then students always learn more if they are given a key or guide to what is coming.

For example, if I were to give a copy of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to the average high school freshman, they would already have an idea of the story. Romeo and Juliet has become fairly popular and elements have been adopted by movies, sitcoms, and kids animated movies. Students would be thrown off by Shakespeare’s language, but they would get the ideas in the story.

How much more would they understand if they were introduced to the physical location of the story? How much more would they absorb if they understood the conflict between Montague and Capulet and how it drives Romeo to pursue Juliet? What details would they understand better if they knew the basics of common language in Shakespeare’s plays? The more we help, the more students will understand.

Students need guidance when tackling challenging texts. Gallagher points out in chapter 10, that there’s a difference between teaching and assigning. The book addresses the process of teaching reading as a community effort. Teaching through the first read through might require conversations about what is happening. Students may pick up on different details that others miss.

Students often challenge a second read through, but if they’re truly going to understand what they have read, they might need to read it more than once. If students are going to be expected to develop deeper reading strategies, they are going to have to see the text from different perspectives.

There’s much more to this book. I really recommend it. It’s an academic read, but I think it’s very accessible. If I were to get into the business of giving stars, it’s easily 5 out of 5 for value, and the volume of useable activities in class or one on one with an individual.

 

Have you read anything else by Kelly Gallagher? What do you think?

Read on!

-Dave

 

When I tell my students that we’re starting a poetry unit, I give them thirty seconds to groan and complain and make disgusted faces. I actually tell them to get ready to complain, and boy do they!

I understand why most people have a hard time with poetry. The language that writers used a hundred years ago, or more can be difficult to understand. It makes sense that we could be feeling the same things about love, or sadness, or death. We just don’t use the same words and metaphors to communicate those feelings and ideas.

The funny thing is, that when we understand the words, we understand the poetry and we like it. If we take the time to get into Shakespeare, we understand the insults, even if we don’t understand some of the words. We become accustomed to the language.

That’s why I don’t spend a lot of time on older poetry. Kids don’t have the attention span to spend days filtering meaning out of those dusty pages.

Don’t get me wrong, we still read Shakespeare. But only as much as we watch. His plays were meant to be watched.

Back to poetry. Introducing, Slam Poetry!

Kids seem to get Slam Poetry. It’s real, it’s raw, it’s emotional, it’s performed. It can be sad, thought provoking, or funny, and it doesn’t have to rhyme. Some still feel like they have to make it rhyme. That’s okay with me, it’s their creation.

I give my students themes. I try to guide their thinking so they can naturally start writing about the thing they love, or the thing that they’re good at. They struggle for a while, but eventually they dig deep enough that they start to write about how they really feel.

The thing I’ve discovered about poetry is that not everyone has had the same experiences. When a 16 year old guy reads a poem that describes being in love as being bathed in the warmth of sunlight, he shrugs and has solidified his belief that poetry is stupid.

However, when that same 16 year old watches a slam poem about love and OCD, the performance, emotion, word choice, and delivery show him how it feels to be in love, and how it feels to have that feeling shattered. He gets it. And that makes reading more intriguing. Reading to understand, not just reading because someone told them to.

Expressing emotion, being vulnerable, and daring to just write can produce amazing poetry. It takes encouragement. Anyone can do it. It also demands trust and respect. The students have to know that you’re on their side, and that what they write, and who they are is important.

So if your kiddo is struggling with reading, maybe take a break and try to write some poetry. Don’t make it rhyme. Don’t force it. Just write. Express feelings, use metaphors, similes, describe the details as if in slow motion. I think you’ll be surprised and amazed at what they write.

I know I am. Sometimes it gives me chills.

Until next week,

Write on, Read on.

-Dave

I’ve listed some slam poems that I love. Some I show in class. Some I can’t because of language. Some have cleaner versions that I do show in class.

Let me know what you think of poetry.

Neil Hilborn – “OCD” One *F* word. Makes me cry every time.

Neil Hilborn – Ted Talk – Agents of Changeand “OCD” Clean

Adam Gottlieb – “Poet Breathe Now” Inspiring

Miriam & Rhiannon – “Cat Poem” Hilarious 🙂

If you have heard your son or daughter talk about how their teacher hates them, or keeps them in from recess, you probably recognize that you don’t have the whole story. When someone outside of your family seems to pick on someone you love, you get upset. You get protective. And rightfully so. Adults should not be picking on kids. More often than not, there’s a frustration that the teacher is experiencing with more than one student. 

That frustration is typically a behavior that most students don’t do, and often the student that is acting out and causing problems is simply responding to stimuli that the student can’t manage. When a student is acting out and the teacher isn’t sure how to deal with it, the teacher will sometimes do irrational things. The student’s behavior could even be something really small and seem unnoticeable, so the teacher’s reaction seems huge and unfair in comparison.

Parents are often unsure of how to help their student when he or she is struggling in school. Even when parents are aware of something their child is dealing with, it can be difficult to communicate with the school about problems. If your child has a 504 or IEP, you have more experience and advice than other parents. Here’s a list of things that you could be doing to help your child in school.

  • Love your child. Make sure that he knows that you are on their side and want them to be successful. 
  • Communicate with the teacher. Email is typically the best way to reach out. Give the teacher a day or two to respond. Most teachers will respond same day, but we’ve all been so busy that we overlook basic daily tasks. 

  • If the teacher doesn’t respond, don’t go over his or her head. Let him know that you still want to talk to them about your student’s performance or behavior in class. 

  • Once you’ve set up a time to visit, be on time. Be patient. But most of all, be pleasant. Your child’s teacher is a teacher because they love the learning process, and genuinely want to see every student succeed. It is not likely that your child’s teacher really has something against your child. 

  • If your child has an IEP or 504, a school representative might be involved in your meeting to make sure that all of your child’s modifications and allowances are followed. The teacher should already be aware of your child’s needs, but the school administration should still be aware that there is need for a meeting.

  • When you are meeting with the teacher, be flexible. The teacher has goals and skills that they’re trying to make happen for every student, every day. On top of that, they’re meeting with team members and administrators to talk about student performance and improvements in skills. Take the teacher’s lead. You know your child, and what they’re capable of, but learning is supposed to be difficult. Students should be challenged, but not to where it feels impossible. 

  • Keep communicating with the teacher. Use a paper tracker for homework and notes. Help your child become more responsible by writing down and tracking his work. 

  • Incentive systems work. Set a fair prize for a specific amount of work or improved behavior. Small steps work best. Start daily. When your child can manage daily behavior, move on to weekly goals.

Be there for your child. Listen to her stories. Help with homework. Show her that success takes work, and that you’ll be there.

While this post doesn’t have much to do with reading, it does have to do with parenting, and helping your student feel successful. As your child experiences success, she’ll be more likely to keep trying.

Keep trying, keep reading, don’t give up.

-Dave