Don’t write off your bad student

troubled student

We all have at least one trouble kid. Secretly, we might wish him out of the class (“maybe his family will move…”). Privately, we might enjoy sending him to the principal’s office (“now I’ll be able to teach!”).

But while the kid disrupts others’ learning, do we take the time to consider the needs of this bad boy/girl? Do we speak harshly to this person?

Maybe the reason why he/she is a class clown is because he/she is hurting. Maybe there’s no love at home. Or maybe abuse.

Are we so insensitive as to pile more abuse on top of the other abuse?

Yeah, I know. We get frustrated with the one student who is blocking the education of the many. We would rather just wash our hands of him/her and forget it.

But teachers do much more than just prepare students for standardized tests. And teachers need to focus much more than just helping your school to score higher on average so as to get more state money, or get that pay raise by scoring highly on average. We have to think about helping kids to NOT become criminals. We have to think about helping kids discover that they ARE valuable and that they DO have talents and that they CAN make an honest living performing a valuable function. You may not get a pay raise, but you are making a difference in what truly matters.

Self-esteem is not…

self esteemBuilding self-esteem is NOT about creating false expectations that the world will be easy.

It IS about showing kids that they have talents and can please people.

Building self-esteem is NOT about cultivating self-centered kids who expect the world to bow to them.

It IS about healing children’s hearts that have been broken by broken families.

Self-esteem is NOT about deluded them about competition and making them think they will win without effort, discipline and vision.

It IS about fostering effort, discipline and vision in people who have none.

Self-esteem is NOT about flattery or false praise.

It IS about finding positives in a world accustomed to negatives.

I’m a believer in self-esteem building. My close friend came from a very broken home. I can’t print the words he used to describe his parents. He had an old school teacher who ran his classroom like a dictatorship. As much of a jerk as he was, the teacher left my friend with a golden nugget. At the end of the semester he said. “It’s too bad you waste so much talent.”

My friend’s take-away? For the first time in his life, he got the notion that he was good at something. He possessed “so much talent.”

This prompted him to try to get into an advanced writing class, to which he was admitted. Ultimately he went to college, the first in his extended family to do so.

That is what self-esteem building is about.

The culture of each class

good studentsEach class has its own culture. Not always do the rebels, or the clowns, lead. Sometimes, you luck out. The majority want to learn, enjoy your lessons, praise you on teacher reviews, and prove your worth on standardized tests.

I wish all my classes were optimal.

The leaders pull along with the rest with a positive energy. The sloth gets motivated to study. The jabbermouth shuts up and listens. The clown, instead of throwing the class into disarray, shapes up.

In my experience, there isn’t much you can do to form the culture of the class. I’ve had groups that fought me tooth and nail and refused to learn. I’ve had students who have excelled and made me proud. What’s your experience?

Blessings and difficulties of running private schools

non-prophetPrivate schools don’t have to follow the politician’s whim. They don’t have to constantly “reform” education. They don’t have to crowd their rooms and pass through dropouts.

But private schools struggle financially. They don’t have public funds. They often operate on very small properties and pay their teachers a miserable wage. Despite these limitations, they accomplish great things.

What are blessings and difficulties you have found with non-profit schools?

Filling out the written composition (part 4)

A FIVE-PAGE paper??? How am I going to fill the pages?

writing papers

I remember the dilemma in high school. If you don’t know how to meat on your skeleton, don’t panic.

  • Don’t cut and paste from internet.
  • Don’t enlarge your font size.
  • Don’t alter margins.

Here’s what you fill your paper with:

  1. Summarize. When you refer to parts of the story, it is fair game for you to use one or two sentences to summarize the part of the story of particular importance. Of course, your teacher knows the story, but you are highlighting to her the part that you want to make a point about.
  2. Quote the book. Use quotes sparingly and limit only to truly significant or moving quotes. Don’t quote back-and-forth dialogue between characters; if it is important, just paraphrase. Sum up the build-up, quote the zinger.
  3. Quote experts. What have others said about the topic/ work? What does the Bible say? What have famous personalities said about your subject? Incorporating quotes seasons your paper with wisdom and knowledge. You can do this seamlessly if the expert says what you have been saying. A quote should be one or two sentences. Don’t think you can just quote entire paragraphs to fill your paper.
  4. Explain. Never assume your opinion is obvious. Use deductive or inductive reasoning. But make sure to explain thoroughly every step in logic. Inexperienced writers frequently skip steps in logic, assuming they are obvious. They may not be and can fill your paper with good material.
  5. Answer the opposition. Usually, you can write a whole paragraph on this. What is the opposite opinion to your own? Show why they are wrong. Respect your opponents; don’t mock them with bombastic charges. The opposing opinion has adherents, so there must be some good reason why people follow that view. You are naive if you assert that yours is the only logical position.
  6. Cite statistics. Numbers are powerful to prove your point. Do a little research and compliment your paper with some survey material.
  7. Make comparisons. Though they tend to get discredited under a microscope for “false analogy,” still they are powerful and everybody uses them. Unless your paper is a debate assignment or a very rigorously-graded persuasion essay, use comparisons. Just try to make sure they apply as best as you can.
  8. Consult. After you have written everything you can think of, have a friend or parent read it and suggest missing points. The inexperienced writer is unaware of these “holes” in his paper. A friend often will pick up on something you didn’t fully explain. You need to fill all the holes.

Writing used to be absolutely miserable for me. Because I wanted to write, I learned the tricks of the trade.

Part 1 of the series.

One rule for writing compositions: part 2

Since the myriad rules are confusing to students, I have whittled them down to one, just one. This is the supreme, over-arching rule for writing. It is the secret to good writing. You may fail in every other area, but if you meet this requirement, your paper has redeeming value. Conversely, if you observe impeccably all the other rules but fail at this, you can’t get better than a C.

What is it?

Don’t be bored writing.

Yes, it’s that simple. If you are bored writing, you’re writing boring stuff. Your grader will be bored, and your grade will reflect that.

But if you get passionate about what you are writing, if you feel it, if what you are saying really matters to you, no matter what your mistakes are, the reader will sense your excitement and grade you accordingly. I prefer that an assault on my own personal beliefs than boring regurgitation. I may pick apart logical fallacies, but the passion with which you write is exciting nevertheless. If you challenge my ideals, I’m intellectually stimulated. And I grade accordingly.

If you are bored, what you write is probably mindless drivel. If you get entranced by your proving your thesis, your words will be golden.

Of course, I don’t mean using exclamation marks. Nor all capital letters. Nor mocking your opponent’s position. No, you must challenge your opponents thinking with thinking of your own. And you will only think, if you get excited about the topic.

Of course, grammar, spelling, logical progression, use of logic, logical separation of sub ideas are all important. But they are the boring details. Spelling and grammar errors only work negatively into your grade; if they are bad, you get down-graded, but they are good, you don’t get up-graded.

In my next post, I will give one strategy to get excited about (almost) any subject.

Here’s part 1 in the series.

Go to part 3.