Back to Learning | How to Learn about Learning

Defining the Big Problem

Most students are somewhat excited to get back to school and see their friends, begin new activities, and even to learn. However, once the novelty of the new school year wears off, many students tend to find themselves struggling with the same academic problems as the previous year, or years.

Little classroom time is spent teaching students how to go about learning, so they repeat the same behaviors and mistakes when it comes to their academic approach. This can lead to frustration and resistance to long-term learning. Even top academic students are vulnerable to counterproductive learning due to the pressure they put on themselves to get “good grades” in the short-term.

The good news is that students can turn this around pretty easily before they even begin their first day back to school. Much of the time students are grappling with managing their approach to academics rather than the material itself; and until they can define the specific problem, they won’t have the tools or means to change it. However, once the academic “diagnosis” is made, the remedy can be applied.

Diagnosing the Details

Summer is an excellent time for taking a break from formal learning. It can also give students perspective about their finished school year when it comes time to consider the next one. One way that students can prepare to get back to learning is to review their previous academic year and make an honest diagnosis of what worked for them and what didn’t. Doing this before the first day of school can help set the tone for avoiding the repetition of academic mistakes.

This diagnosis isn’t to identify which subjects they found hard or easy, but rather which of their learning approaches were effective and not effective. Students can start with listing one behavior for each. For example, if students feel they participated well in class then they can list that as an effective approach. More importantly, they should explain why it was effective and beneficial to their academics. Perhaps participating in class kept them engaged with the material so they absorbed more of it. This will give them a clear idea of which behaviors to continue for academic success.

The tougher task is naming a non-effective academic approach. Students may have trouble admitting to procrastination, missing due dates, misunderstanding assignments, and so on. Or they may not know exactly what approach they are taking that makes their learning counterproductive. Parents can help by not judging, and simply asking what didn’t go well the previous year or what they might like to change. Perhaps they want to be more organized in planning research papers, so they spend less time staring at a blank screen worrying about what to write. Or possibly they remember a missed deadline that resulted in a poor grade. Talking it through can bring clarity and a sense of ownership.

Future Reward

Once students clearly identify non-effective academic behaviors, they can figure out how to change them. There are a variety of resources that offer help, such as time management exercises and organization tutorials. The key is to understand that not diagnosing ineffective behaviors will only lead to their repetition. Behaviors and approaches can’t be changed until they are identified. This diagnosis sounds like end-of-summer homework, which can seem unfair. Yet taking time to identify effective and non-effective academic approaches before school starts can save students stress and frustration throughout the year and long-term. It will encourage them to make goals to improve their approach to learning, find resources to help change non-effective behavior, and take steps to becoming more effective in school years to come.

Don’t Be That Parent | Some Things to Think about During Kid Sporting Events

Have you been to your child’s sporting events recently?  WOW!  The things one sees and hears at a game or match will leave you speechless.  Let’s discuss the things you SHOULDN’T do at your child’s games.

Throw in the towel

The last thing a parent wants to see or hear is a coach telling the kids on the team to purposely lose.  Yes!  I said it!  Purposely lose so that another team can’t advance in tournament play.  If you frequent the baseball fields you’ve seen or heard about this happening!  Let’s dispel the myth….it really does happen.  Don’t be that parent or coach.  Play sports to your best ability whether your team has a shot to advance or not.  It should seem like the obvious thing to some but it really isn’t.  Parents and coaches act crazy.  They can get vindictive towards other teams.  What parents forget is that they are setting an example to their child.  Don’t be that parent that allows this.  Don’t be the parent that makes excuses for the adults to allow that to happen.  Speak with your child about sportsmanship and not throwing in the towel.  Play the best until the end and always finish never giving up.  These are obvious lessons to some people and should be common sense.  An adult shouldn’t tell a player on any team to purposely lose.  Don’t be that parent or coach!

Blame others on the team

Can we be honest for a minute? Parents make excuses for their children and often times put their child on a pedestal.  Don’t be that parent.  Team sports take a team to win.  Individuals have to pull and work together to achieve the common goal of winning.  Don’t be that parent that blames a child for not pitching a perfect game.  Don’t be the mother that says her kid would’ve done better if the others on the team would contribute more.  Don’t be the father that thinks their child is perfect.  Believe it or not, this exists in youth sports today.  Walk around a field or court and you hear parents on the sidelines talking.  Don’t be that parent that everyone talks about behind their back.  Believe it or not, they really do!  If you feel the need to have to “Talk up your child”, do it at home where you can brag about their accolades in private.  Just don’t be that parent!

Arguing and Fighting

The last thing anyone wants to see are adults arguing over a call or finish.  Parents need to remember the proper channels and procedures for handling bad calls.  Yelling rarely accomplishes anything.  Know where the lead umpires and game moderators are located.  Seek them out when there is a decision that is disagreeable.  That is their job and so many times they are overlooked.  Coaches end up fighting with each other.  The children are watching this and seeing what is allowed and acceptable behavior.  Many times the parents in the stands even get involved in the yelling and fighting with each other.  Don’t be that parent!  If you didn’t like the call during the game, don’t make a spectacle of yourself.  Seek out the correct people and make your complaint known to them.  Sometimes it even means having to write a letter to the league and those in charge.  Take care of the controversial situation in a proper manner.  Children are watching how adults handle themselves in hard situations.  Be a positive model for your child.

When attending your child’s sports events, it’s important to remember a few key pieces of advice.  Remember that children are watching the adults in charge.  These are impressionable children who will become adults before too long.  Don’t be that parent or coach that models poorly.  Take the high road…it’s not easy but well worth it.  Just don’t be THAT parent!