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/

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 have never taken an online class for college. I need personal interaction with peers and a mentor or teacher. I can see the appeal for many students. It can be embarrassing, having to participate in class and not knowing the answers. I feel bad for students who are naturally introverts. Additionally, I know that there are students who are ashamed of their ability, or rather, inability to perform an academic task at grade level. Teenagers can be so rude sometimes.

I have always thought of teaching as an in person event. Students need feedback. Instruction and conversation are fluid and nuanced. Feedback for students’ work might need to change based on how the student is feeling that day. I might need to be more sensitive with redirection or clarification. Interpersonal communication is challenging.

The question is, can reading be taught online? I’ve always learned best in person. I’ve always taught in person. Is there a way to give specific instruction online? Is there a way to give timely feedback?

That’s one of the biggest challenges I have faced as a public school teacher. I have taught, on average 230 students every year for four years. I know that some understood my lessons and should have been in an Honors or AP class. I know that I have tried to teach students without knowing how to get through to them. Is there a better way to individually teach students? Is there a better way to foster curiosity, learning, and growth at the individual level?

Online might be the answer.

I have seen many people learn amazing things through online resources. Videos, podcasts, news sites, and technology yet to be understood have all been a step in the education process. I think that there is potential online.

So I’m branching out. I’m trying the video route through YouTube for now. I would love for you to swing by and watch a video or two. If it’s something that you think has potential, I’d love some feedback. If you know someone that could use the information, please share!

And, as always, read on!
-Dave

In October 2018, I wrote about my decision not to teach the whole class novel. I had read a book over Summer 2018 about giving students time to read what they want to read, and expecting them to do it, and how great their reading would improve, and for a bonus, they would actually enjoy reading. As an English teacher it sounds amazing. They have time to read in class and every student is reading something he or she wants, and they’re hooked, right? There would be no whining about having to read this boring book with everyone. Kids wouldn’t be done and waiting for others to catch up. It sounded amazing, but I had doubts.

The Problems With Independent Reading In 10th Grade

Fairly quickly I could see who struggled to read. All of my students are literate, but I know that I have a few who are significantly below grade level. Those students never really gave reading a chance. They knew that they weren’t very good, and no matter what they read, they were reminded that they couldn’t read very well. They had a big obstacle to overcome and it wasn’t worth it.

Students could still fake their reading checks. It takes great imagination to make up characters, plot, and setting, but it can be done. However, the students who were overly vague knew that they had been caught.

It took several students months of sitting there with a book and hating, it before they found a book that they connected with. Once they found that book though, they looked forward to that reading time and often begged for more.

For some reason, students think that they have reflexes fast enough to switch from their texting app to the book that they are “reading”. It’s annoying knowing that they think they’re getting away with something.

The students who love to read don’t put their books down.

The Benefits of Independent Reading In 10th Grade

The students who like to read, read more and enjoy reading more. The students who are already reading a wide variety of books continue to read a wide variety, and even recommend books to me.

Students have reported seeing vocabulary words we have worked on in school, in their personal reading.

In the end not all students love to read. Even some of the well-organized, intellectual students didn’t enjoy the time that they had to read. I would like to think that their writing has improved, though. I’ll watch that next year.

Conclusion

I’m sold. I would much rather recommend certain students read the books we would have read in class together, and let other students discover which books they connect with. They might not know what they like to read, but with time, they can discover it. Students need a break from their every day stress and other classes. Reading can be a form of relaxation, entertainment, or connection to someone or somewhere else. They recognize those connections, too. They recognize when they relate to the main character. They recognize when they connect with a person in non-fiction. They make connections to what is happening in the world around them. Most of all, they realize that they’re not the only one struggling. They understand that everyone has problems, and that we should be a little more sensitive and understanding when someone is having a bad day.

Hopefully they see that in their day-to-day lives, not just when they’re reading.

I still taught Macbeth whole class, but we watched it more than we read it, and now we’re writing about it. That’s different, right?

What I don’t understand, is how some call Macbeth boring.

If you teach ELA to any age group, I’d like to know what you think about whole class novel instruction. Do you enjoy it? Do you wish you could do something else?

Let me know.

Read on!

-Dave